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How slim children become obese adults

Monday November 28th, 2011

Slim children who become obese in adulthood are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, it has been claimed.

In contrast oveweight children who slim down as adults may enjoy protection against heart disease, researchers say.

They found no evidence suggesting childhood obesity is a direct cause of metabolic disease in adulthood - rather than simply increasing the risk a child becomes an overweight adult, the researchers say.

Research by nutrition experts at The University of Nottingham even uncovered the possibility of there being a slight protective effect for those who are overweight as children and reduce their Body Mass Index (BMI) in adulthood.

Researchers said the results from this second study suggest that dieticians and nutritionists are missing an important at-risk group.

The research, which was funded by the Organix Foundation and published online in the International Journal of Obesity, reviewed 11 academic studies that examined individuals’ response to diet, development and ageing.

Led by Professor Simon Langley-Evans, the study concludes that previous studies claiming childhood obesity permanently raises risk of disease failed to take into account adult BMI.

It resulted in insufficient evidence to demonstrate links with long term-risk which are independent of adult BMI.

But when adult BMI was taken into consideration, it was found that people at the lower end of BMI in childhood who became obese later in life had the highest chances of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Professor Langley-Evans, who is chair in Human Nutrition at the university’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, said: “There is substantial evidence that childhood obesity tracks into adulthood and it is clear that adult obesity puts us at higher risk of metabolic disease.

“We are not therefore suggesting that childhood obesity is without consequences. Targeting childhood and adolescence for prevention and treatment of obesity is wholly appropriate in order to establish a healthy weight moving forward into the adult years.

“However, we have found that the nature of the relationship between early BMI and adult disease risk is very complex. People at the lower end of the BMI range in childhood and go on to be obese as adults seem to be at particular risk.

“Therefore, by focusing on children who are overweight or obese for the promotion of health weight management we may be missing an important at-risk group.”

Dr Sarah McMullen, lecturer in Human Nutrition at the university who also worked on the review, said their conclusions are opposite to many studies.

“We were surprised to see that when we adjusted for adult body mass index the relationships disappeared and, in fact, many of them reversed,” she said.

“Most surprising to us was the finding that it is those who are relatively lean in childhood but go on to be obese during adulthood who are at particular risk.”

International Journal of Obesity November 1 2011;doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.186

Tags: Child Health | Diabetes | Diet & Food | Heart Health | UK News

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