Overweight Children Develop Heart Disease Risks by Adolescence

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Children age 9 to 12 with high body mass index (BMI) can have risk factors for heart disease by the time they reach adolescence. The study is the first to look at the impact of higher waist circumference and fat mass in overweight children and heart disease risk by age 15 to 16.

The researchers studied 5,235 children who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) that begins at birth. The scientists obtained measurements of BMI during childhood; cholesterol levels, blood pressure, glucose and insulin levels were analyzed in adolescence.

By Age 15 to 16, Overweight Children Develop Heart Risks

The study authors found the risk factors for heart disease from positive findings of high cholesterol, blood pressure and decreased insulin sensitivity when the children reached age 15 to 16.


Waist circumference, linked to risk for heart disease in diabetes did not seem to be any more of a risk than being overweight.

The authors wrote, "Our findings highlight the need to shift the whole childhood population distribution of adiposity downwards and to develop interventions that safely and effectively reduce weight and improve cardiovascular risk factors in overweight/obese children.”

The good news say the researchers is that losing weight during childhood can also reverse risk factors for heart disease that would otherwise manifest during adolescence - potentially leading to a lifetime of poor health.

BMJ 2010; 341:c6224