Overweight or obese children who lose weight by adulthood significantly decrease their risk of heart diseases, suggests new study. Becoming a nonobese adult could reverse the adverse effects of childhood overweight or obesity.
The prevalences of overweight and obesity in children have risen alarmingly during the past three decades. Obesity in childhood is a predictor of the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus and heart diseases. Curbing the "obesity epidemic" may prevent a shorter lifespan for today's children.
AdvertisementA high body mass index (BMI) in childhood is known to be associated with a high risk of obesity in adulthood. Although childhood overweight and obesity frequently persist into adulthood, some children with a high BMI become nonobese as adults. It was not previously known if the link between childhood obesity and heart disease risk persists when overweight or obese children lose weight and become nonobese as adults.
Data from four large studies of risk factors of heart disease were analysed. These studies that tracked risk factors over two decades found that weight loss produced a dramatic reduction of the risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and carotid-artery atherosclerosis in young adulthood. 6328 subjects were included in the study. The heart disease risk profile of obese or overweight children who became nonobese by young adulthood was similar to those of subjects who had been of normal weight throughout their lives. The data also showed that persons who had normal BMI in childhood but who became obese as adults had adverse risk-factor profile.
If the hypothesis is true, it definitely is a cue for physicians to rewrite the age old statement that 'once childhood obesity is established, cardiovascular risk is also determined'. Treatment of childhood obesity may substantially reduce the risk of heart disease.
It is high time to target interventions for obesity prevention and treatment to children at high risk for becoming obese. Obesity, once established, is hard to treat.
The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, has a major limitation that the subjects were predominantly white. Authors caution against generalising the results to other races or ethnic groups.
Reference: Childhood Adiposity, Adult Adiposity, and Cardiovascular Risk Factors; Markus Juonala, M.D., Ph.D., Costan G. Magnussen, Ph.D., Gerald S. Berenson, M.D., Alison Venn, Ph.D., Trudy L. Burns, M.P.H., Ph.D., Matthew A. Sabin, M.D., Ph.D., Sathanur R. Srinivasan, Ph.D., Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., Ph.D., Patricia H. Davis, M.D., Wei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Cong Sun, M.D., Ph.D., Michael Cheung, M.D., Ph.D., Jorma S.A. Viikari, M.D., Ph.D., Terence Dwyer, M.D., M.P.H., and Olli T. Raitakari, M.D., Ph.D.; N Engl J Med 2011; 365:1876-1885November 17, 2011.