Childhood Obesity And Heart Disease
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | October 12, 2004

With broadcast news, cable news networks, and the Internet, health news is reported every day. Significant research sometimes falls through the cracks because of more provocative reports. This happened recently when the news focused on the flu vaccine shortage or the relationship between arthritis medication and heart attacks. What fell through the cracks was a study that examined the relationship between childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease. This is an important piece of research and is the subject of this edition of the Newsletter.

Researchers from the U.S. and Italy examined the relationship between childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease (1). They examined the differences in known risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes for a group of 100 overweight children (OWC) and 47 normal weight children (NWC). All the results compare the OWC with their age-matched controls, are statistically significant, and more importantly, are of clinical significance as well. Here’s a summary of the results:
  • OWC weighed at least 50 pounds more than the NWC.
  • OWC had higher resting blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic.
  • OWC had higher fasting total cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • OWC had higher fasting insulin levels, one indicator of insulin resistance.
  • OWC had higher C-reactive protein levels.
  • OWC had thicker intimal linings of their carotid arteries and the arteries were stiffer, both an indication of atherosclerosis.
In effect, there was not a single variable examined that didn’t indicate these children--as young as 7 and old as 14--were at risk for cardiovascular disease. That leads to this question:

What do you think the health prognosis is for a child of 7 who is insulin resistant, has higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and has the beginnings of atherosclerosis in their carotid arteries?

The prognosis is not very good if something doesn’t change. The good news is that these conditions are reversible, especially for children, but action must be taken now. If they don’t change their lifestyle to reduce body weight, they’re destined for a life full of medications, health challenges, and perhaps even premature death--not to mention fewer options for sports and other school activities, plus all the shame and low self-esteem overweight kids usually feel. Life certainly won’t be as much fun as it could be for them.

The real solution is to change the lifestyle of the family. Everyone in the house should eat a better diet by eating more fruits and vegetables, less refined carbohydrates, less saturated fats, and better quality protein. It’s also time to get out from in front of the computer screen and television and get moving as a family. This research shows it’s time to quit complaining about the time you don’t have and more effectively use the time you do have--together. Your life depends on it. So does your children’s.

  1. Ianuzzi, A. et al. Increased Carotid Intima-Media Thickness and Stiffness in Obese Children. Diabetes Care. 2004;27(10):2506-08.
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