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Obese children show early signs of heart disease

“Two thirds of obese children show early signs of heart disease”, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

The news is based on a study that examined how common risk factors for diseases that can affect the heart and the blood vessels (cardiovascular disease or ‘CVD’) are in severely obese children. There is no internationally agreed consensus on what constitutes severe obesity in children.

The researchers found that a majority of children identified had risk factors for CVD that you would normally only expect to see in older adults, such as:

  • over half (56%) had high blood pressure
  • around one in seven had high blood glucose levels

Worryingly, researchers found that when specifically looking at those younger than 12 years, 62% already had more than one CVD risk factor.

These types of risk factors do not usually cause any noticeable symptoms in children but they significantly increase the chance of a child developing a serious disease, such as coronary heart disease in later life.

There are still some limitations to this type of study, including the fact that some obese children might not have been referred to, or seen by, a paediatrician, and a lack of internationally recognised criteria for severe obesity in children.

Also, the study did not have a comparison group and so could not compare findings to children in healthy weight ranges. The findings do reinforce the well-known messages that are common to all age groups:

  • eat healthy
  • exercise regularly
  • aim to maintain a healthy weight

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