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How child obesity triggers early heart risk

Tuesday July 24th, 2012

Almost two-thirds of severely obese children under the age of 12 display symptoms of at least one risk factor for heart disease, researchers warned today.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are among the problems found in young children.

Experts say the findings highlight the urgency of tackling the growing problem of child obesity.

Research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood found that the affected youngsters had high blood pressure; high levels of low density cholesterol; high fasting blood glucose; and type 2 diabetes.

The figures come from data supplied by paediatricians to the Dutch Paediatric Surveillance Unit between 2005 and 2007, when doctors treating all new cases of severe obesity in children from the ages of two to 18 across The Netherlands had to supply information on their patients’ cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, fasting blood glucose levels, and blood fats (lipids).

Doireann Maddock, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Although it was a small study, the findings leave a bad taste in the mouth. 

“However, this is a problem that can be addressed by stopping young people becoming overweight and obese in the first place. Highlighting the importance of healthy eating and physical activity from an early age will help protect the heart health of future generations.”

Researcher Nathalie Emmerik, of the VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands, examined the data, which was submitted over three years by most paediatricians every month if they had treated a severely obese child.

Altogether, there was information available on 500 children under the age of 18, with the required cardiovascular risk factor data available for 255.

Of those, two-thirds (67 per cent) had at least one cardiovascular risk factor: 56 per cent had high blood pressure; 54 per cent high levels of low density cholesterol; 14 per cent had high fasting blood glucose; and just under one per cent already had type 2 diabetes.

Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of those aged 12 and under had one or more heart disease risk factors.

“The prevalence of impaired fasting glucose in [these children] is worrying, considering the increasing prevalence worldwide of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents,” write the authors. “Likewise, the high prevalence of hypertension and abnormal lipids may lead to cardiovascular disease in young adulthood.”

They conclude: “Internationally-accepted criteria for defining severe obesity and guidelines for early detection and treatment of severe obesity and [underlying ill health] are urgently needed.”

High cardiovascular risk in severely obese young children and adolescents. Emmerik N et al. Archive of disease in Childhood. 2012. 0:1–4. doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-301877 doi 10.1136/archdischild-2012-301877

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

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