Adults who had so-called metabolic syndrome when they were children have a substantially increased risk of having heart disease in their 30s, researchers report. The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors — such as high blood pressure, obesity and high blood sugar levels — that together increase the likelihood of developing heart problems or diabetes.
Individual components of metabolic syndrome are known to track from childhood into adulthood, but the association between metabolic syndrome in childhood and cardiovascular risk later in life has not been established, Dr. John A. Morrison and his associates explain in the medical journal Pediatrics.
The researchers analyzed data, collected between 1973 and 1976, on levels of blood glucose, triglycerides, “good” cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure in 771 children aged 5 to 19 years.
Thirty-one of these kids had at least three abnormal factors and were classified as having metabolic syndrome, Morrison, at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and colleagues report.
The original group was followed-up between 22 and 31 years later. Twenty-one of the 31 subjects with metabolic syndrome as children had the condition in adulthood.
In the entire adult group, there were 17 cases of cardiovascular disease; six of these occurred in the group that had childhood metabolic syndrome — a rate almost 15 times higher than among subjects without metabolic syndrome as children.
Increases in weight were the main factor driving in the development of metabolic syndrome, Morrison’s team found. The findings, they stress, “underscore the importance of weight management in early and middle adult years.”
Pediatrics, August 2007.