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Childhood Obesity May Increase Cardiac Events in Adulthood

Even if their weight is under control, adults who were obese as children may be at higher risk for cardiac events and early death….

"Kids’ maturing bodies may be especially vulnerable to the detrimental health effects of obesity," study investigator Kristen Nadeau, MD, of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, said in a press release. "Early exposure can make you much more predisposed to complications than might exposure once the body is done maturing. It may be that childhood obesity changes the way the whole metabolism is working — and changes it during a critical developmental time frame."

The review culled longitudinal data to delineate the relevance of childhood obesity as a predictor of adult obesity and obesity-related disorders.

Notably, childhood obesity is strongly related to adult obesity, the researchers wrote. The study cited the Princeton Follow-Up Study, which found that 63% of participants defined as being "at risk of overweight" as children were obese 25 years later.

Childhood obesity also was linked to increased incidence of metabolic syndrome, which is a compendium of clinical characteristics related to insulin resistance and predictive of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The Young Finns Study, a population-based longitudinal study, found that childhood obesity was the most significant risk factor for metabolic syndrome and was independently associated with adult metabolic syndrome.

The study also cited data from a meta-analysis of 50 studies on blood pressure, which found that BP has a tendency to be consistent from childhood into adulthood, a finding which underscores the increased long-term risk for hypertension in obese children. Moreover, the Muscatine Study, which monitored participants from childhood to middle age, found that childhood obesity was predictive of noninvasive markers of CVD risk, such as coronary artery calcification and carotid intimal medial thickness.

The study looked at the connection between childhood obesity and increased risk for type 2 diabetes. According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, there was a significant relationship between a higher level of excess BMI years in childhood and the subsequent onset of diabetes. The study also evaluated potential correlations between youth obesity and conditions such as cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The researchers said besides signifying earlier and longer-term exposure to the risks associated with obesity, obesity during this specific stage of life appears to be independently linked to adult disease risk.

Kelsey MM. Gerontology. 2014;doi:10.1159/000356023.