Obese children risk future heart disease and stroke shown in new study

A new study confirms the potential for future heart attack and stroke for children who are obese. Researchers say the consequences of childhood obesity and risk for future heart attack start early for children.

Scientists measured inflammatory markers in the bloodstream of obese children who were otherwise healthy, comparing to lean children. They found increased levels of C-reactive protein and that were elevated ten fold compared to children who were not obese. They also found higher than normal levels of fibrinogen - substances that lead to blood clots that also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Children may not show typical signs of metabolic syndrome that boosts risk of heart disease in adults, but the scientists say there are still indications that childhood obesity increases the risk of future heart attack and stroke from the findings of increased inflammation and abnormal fibrinogen levels found in the obese children studied.

"This new study demonstrates that the unhealthy consequences of excess body fat start very early," said Nelly Mauras, MD, of Nemours Children's Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida and senior author of the study. "Our study shows that obesity alone is linked to certain abnormalities in the blood that can predispose individuals to developing cardiovascular disease early in adulthood.

The study included 202 individuals age 7 to 18 who had no risk factors for heart disease - – 87 children with lean body mass and 115 obese children were studied to find that children who are obese risk heart disease and stroke in the future, beginning as early as age seven.

"Doctors often do not treat obesity in children now unless they have other features of the metabolic syndrome," Mauras said. "This practice should be reconsidered. Further studies are needed to offer more insight into the effects of therapeutic interventions in these children.” Daily activity and exercise combined with a healthy diet can lead to a lifetime of better health. For children who are obese, the future risk of heart disease and stroke starts early.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab .2010; 0: jc.2009-1887v1