Overweight Children at Risk for Heart Disease Factors by Teens

Risk profiles may be positively influenced by weight loss, especially for girls

MONDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Children with a high body mass index (BMI) may develop heart disease-associated risk factors by their teens, though they -- girls in particular -- may be able to improve their heart disease profiles if they are able to reduce the excess weight by the time they reach adolescence, according to research published online Nov. 25 in BMJ.

To examine the association between BMI, waist circumference, and fat mass in childhood and subsequent cardiovascular risk factors, Debbie A. Lawlor, Ph.D., of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues assessed blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels, and other measures in 5,235 15- and 16-year-olds who were aged 9 to 12 at the beginning of the study.

The researchers found that a high BMI in childhood was associated with the development of cardiovascular risk factors by adolescence. However, waist circumference and fat mass measurements were not associated with adolescent heart disease risk any more strongly than BMI. Overweight and obese girls who reduced weight by age 15 to 16 had odds for risk factors similar to those of girls with normal weight at both ages; boys with high BMI experienced some improvement in risk factor odds with weight loss, though not as markedly as girls.

"Our findings highlight the need to shift the whole distribution of adiposity in children downwards and to develop interventions that safely and effectively reduce weight and improve cardiovascular risk factors in overweight/obese children," the authors write.

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