A new study found out how metabolic risk factors cluster similarly in children and adults. Furthermore, in adults, the clustering of these riskfactors increases the risk of premature death caused by type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarctionand cardiovascular diseases. The results indicate that lifestyle interventions aiming at theprevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases should be invested in already inchildhood. The results of the study were recently published in Diabetologia.
Metabolicsyndrome refers to a condition in which a person carries several risk factors associated withtype 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Traditionally, these risk factors have includedoverweight and abdominal obesity, reduced muscle, adipose tissue and liver insulin sensitivityand related glucose metabolism disorders, increased levels of plasma triglyceride, decreasedlevels of plasma HDL cholesterol, and increased blood pressure. As overweight has becomeincreasingly widespread, the clustering of metabolic risk factors has become increasingly commonalso in children. If no improvement in exercise and nutrition habits takes place in childhood,metabolic syndrome is likely to persist into adulthood, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes,cardiovascular diseases and premature death. Up until recently, the definition of metabolicsyndrome has been a controversial topic especially in children, although the components ofmetabolic syndrome have been known for a long time. It has also been unclear whether thecomponents of metabolic syndrome are the same in children and adults.
The study showedthat the components of metabolic syndrome cluster similarly in children and adults of differentages irrespective of sex. However, abdominal obesity was relatively less emphasised in childrenthan in adults, and increased blood pressure was relatively more emphasised in middle-aged menthan in children and older men and women. As expected, the risk factor score was higher inadults than in children. The observed cumulation of metabolic risk factors in all age groupsincreased the risk of premature death due to type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction andcardiovascular diseases in adults.
The results indicate that also metabolic risk factorscores lower than those generally accepted in the field of medicine are detrimental especiallyin cases where several risk factors are present. The results suggest that risk assessment oftype 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases should increasingly pay attention to the scores ofseveral risk factors. Furthermore, lifestyle interventions begun in childhood and continuinginto adulthood, combined with drug treatment when necessary, should constitute the primarymethod of reducing the overall risk.
The data comprised three population samples from theKuopio region in eastern Finland: 491 healthy 6-8 year old girls and boys participating in thePhysical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study, 1,900 middle-aged men participatingin the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD), and 1,170 older women and menparticipating in DR's EXTRA Study. The PANIC Study is an on-going lifestyle intervention study,which produces valuable information on children's lifestyle factors, health and well-being allthe way into adulthood. Collaboration between the three different studies involving people ofdifferent ages made it possible to study the development of metabolic syndrome and its riskfactors extensively.