Risk of Heart Disease Linked to Childhood Obesity


Children as young as 3 years old who are obese have been found to have elevated levels of inflammatory biomarkers, particularly C-reactive protein, that can lead to future cardiovascular disease risk.

In the U.S., 14% of 2-to-5-year-olds are considered overweight, or at the 85th percentile or greater of weight for height in their age group.

Asheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD, and colleagues have published the results of their study in the journal Pediatrics. The study compared with normal weight children ages 3 to 5 to obese children. Obese children had more than double the risk of having C-reactive protein levels greater than 1 mg/L .

Inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein have been associated with obesity in adults, but only a few studies have been done looking at a possible association in children.

Skinner and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of 16,335 kids ages 1 to 17 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999 to 2006 to look at the relationship of inflammation markers and weight status in children.

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All three biomarkers of inflammation -- C-reactive protein, neutrophil count, and ferritin controlled for iron status --assessed were significantly higher in obese children.

Of the very obese children, ages 15 to 17, 83.3% had a C-reactive protein level over 1.0 mg/L, whereas only 18.1% of healthy weight children had a level that high.

Very obese children ages 3 to 5 had a much higher risk of having C-reactive protein levels above 1 mg/L (HR 2.29, 95% CI 1.52 to 3.44, P<0.01).

An increased risk of abnormal neutrophil count was seen among very obese children starting in the 6 to 8 age group (HR 2.00, P=0.049).

An increased prevalence of abnormal ferritin/transferrin ratio began at age 9 to 11 (HR 7.06, P<0.001).

There is a need for future research to examine the usefulness of each marker in predicting future cardiovascular outcomes.

Skinner AC, et al "Multiple markers of inflammation and weight status: cross-sectional analyses through childhood" Pediatrics 2010; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-2182.