Nov. 18, 2011
UI study: Childhood obesity does not permanently increase cardiovascular risk
An international study involving investigators in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine found that people who were overweight or obese during childhood but of normal weight as adults have cardiovascular outcomes similar to individuals who were never obese.
In contrast, the study of 6,328 individuals from Muscatine, Iowa, and around the world found that people who were consistently overweight or obese from childhood into adulthood had significantly increased risks of diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, and atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. The report appears in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
For purposes of this study, adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater were considered to be obese. The investigators calculated age- and gender-specific BMI percentiles for children (mean age 11.4 ¬± 4.0 years) that corresponded to an adult BMI of 25 for overweight and 30 for obesity.
"This study suggests that some of the most serious cardiovascular risks associated with obesity can be effectively reduced in adulthood if obesity is addressed or preferably prevented early in life," said Trudy L. Burns, M.P.H., Ph.D., UI professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health. "From a public health perspective, these findings have important implications in the context of the ongoing obesity epidemic in children and adolescents."
The researchers found that, over the nearly 25-year follow up, only 15 percent of individuals who were normal weight as children became obese as adults. Meanwhile, 65 percent of those who were overweight or obese as children and 82 percent of those who were obese as children were obese as adults.
In the United States, about 16 percent of children and adolescents aged 2- to 19-years-old are considered obese, according to the most recent data. In both developed and developing countries, the rate of obesity has been increasing steadily over the past 30 years, threatening to reverse a decades-long trend toward a longer lifespan.
The study included participants from four large longitudinal cohort studies of cardiovascular risk factors among children who were followed into adulthood: The Muscatine Heart Study, Muscatine, Iowa; The Bogalusa Heart Study, Bogalusa, La.; the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study, Finland; and the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study, Australia. The Muscatine Heart Study began in 1970 and is the longest running study of cardiovascular risk factors in children in the world.
Along with Burns, Patricia Davis, M.D., UI professor of neurology, also was part of the research team.
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