Two in three children with obesity show signs of heart disease risk
Two thirds of obese children already have heart disease risk factors – with high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose evident even in under-12s.
As childhood obesity increases across the globe a team of Dutch medical researchers have discovered that two out of three severely obese children already have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
But little research has been carried out on the underlying health problems that children with severe weight problems have, said the authors of a report which appears in the British Medical Journal.
They also found that a third of obese children came from single parent home and boys were more likely to pile on too many pounds at a younger age.
The authors wrote: “Internationally accepted criteria for defining severe obesity and guidelines for early detection and treatment of severe obesity and underlying ill health are urgently needed.”
The team looked at information gathered from doctors treating all new cases of severe obesity in children from the ages of two to 18 over a three-year period including information on their patients’ cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, and blood fats, known as lipids.
The definition of severe obesity started at a body mass index (BMI) of 20.5 for a 2 year old, at 31 for a 12 year old, and at 35 for an 18 year old.
In the study of 307 obese children just over half were boys. They tended to be more severely obese at the younger end of the age spectrum. The reverse was true of girls.
Full information on cardiovascular risk factors was available for 255 – 83 per cent.
Two out of three, 67 per cent had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. Over half had high blood pressure and a similar proportion, 54 per cent, had high levels of low density “bad” cholesterol.
One in seven had high fasting blood glucose, and just under 1 per cent already had type 2 diabetes.
And “remarkably”, said the authors, almost two thirds of those aged 12 and under had one or more cardiovascular risk factors.
Only one child’s obesity was attributable to medical rather than lifestyle factors. Nearly one in three severely obese children came from one parent families.
“The prevalence of impaired fasting glucose in [these children] is worrying, considering the increasing prevalence worldwide of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents,” the authors wrote.
“Likewise, the high prevalence of hypertension and abnormal lipids may lead to cardiovascular disease in young adulthood.”
The authors, from VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, based their findings on data which was supplied to them by paediatricians to the Dutch Paediatric Surveillance Unit between 2005 and 2007.
The details of the research are published online in Archives of Disease in Childhood.
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