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Teenage heart health: Monitor kids' weight early

Teenage heart health: Monitor kids' weight early

2/19/2019

Excessive weight gain in children under two years can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors in teenage years, including increased cholesterol, being overweight and having fat around the middle, finds new research from the University of Sydney.

Obesity and cardiovascular risk factors in childhood and adolescence are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

Published in The Journal of Paediatrics, the study tracked the Body Mass Index (BMI) of children from birth to 14 years and found that earlier onset of high BMI (in children under two years) resulted in higher cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, and more central (unhealthy) fat in adolescence, compared with onset of high BMI in children aged three to five.

This is the first study to look at the consequences of weight gain at two different stages of early childhood and its impact on developing cardiovascular disease as an adult.

"Our study found that there are two main pathways to obesity as a teenager -- rapid weight gain in the first two years of life (early weight gain) or rapid weight gain between ages two and five years of age (later weight gain)," said senior author University of Sydney's Professor David Celermajer, Scandrett Professor of Cardiology at Sydney Medical School and the Heart Research Institute. "The data shows that there are consequences of the timing of the onset of excess BMI in early childhood. Earlier onset of a rising BMI that persisted through childhood results in greater central fat and higher cholesterol in teenagers, independent of their BMI at 14 years."

“Fat around the middle is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease in adulthood,” said lead author Dr. Jennifer Barraclough, cardiologist and PhD student at University of Sydney and the Heart Research Institute. "The early weight gain group also had significantly higher cholesterol levels compared to a group of healthy weight teenagers. Our study shows that the earlier the onset of excess fat before five years of age, the more likely the individual is to have fat around the middle by adolescence.”

Co-author Professor Louise Baur, Head of Child & Adolescent Health at the University's Sydney Medical School and The Children's Hospital at Westmead said: "This study has shown that it is important for families and the community to understand the risks of excess weight gain in early life and to ensure healthy eating and activity are supported from a very young age.”

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