Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Childhood Obesity and Adult Outcomes

Juonala, M. M. D. P. D., Magnussen, C. G. P. D., Berenson, G. S. M. D., Venn, A. P. D., Burns, T. L. M. P. H. P. D., Sabin, M. A. M. D. P. D., . . . Raitakari, O. T. M. D. P. D. (2011). Childhood Adiposity, Adult Adiposity, and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. New England Journal of Medicine, 365(20), 1876-1885.

The purpose of the study that is referenced above was to determine if people who were overweight or obese as children but who were NOT overweight or obese as adults would have similar cardiovascular risk factors as people who remained overweight/obese or who became overweight/obese as adults.

I know,  a lot to wrap your mind around.  If you figured out that they were comparing outcomes between 4 groups, then you are on the right track.

It has already been established that being overweight or obese as a child greatly increases the risk of adult obesity.  It has also been established that the heart disease (cardiovascular) risk factors associated with overweight and obesity are hypertension, diabetes, low HDL, high LDL, high triglycerides and thickening of the carotid artery. It is those six outcomes that the researchers measured in this study of over 4000 persons.

The current research involved four studies that were started about 23 years ago and which took place in USA, Canada and Finland.   The average age of the student at the start of the 4 studies (when their BMIs were collected the first time) was 11.  AT the end of the individual studies, the BMIs were collected again and each study had information on the risk factors for heart disease that I mentioned above.

Here are just a couple of things from the current study that I found interesting: 

Of the students who were normal weight at the start of the study - over 14% became obese adults.
Of the students who were overweight/obese as children, over 64% became obese adults.
OF the students who were obese, as other research has suggested, 82% became obese adults.

Everyone who was obese/overweight as an adult had 2 to 3 times greater risk of all of the above outcomes with few exceptions. 

The children who were overweight or obese and became normal weight adults had the same level of risk as normal weight adults. (this is great news)

The two things that need to be done with the findings are
1) prevent our children from becoming obese
2) provide treatment to obese children so they do not become obese adults. The best chance at reversing the weight is going to come in early childhood - before age 11.

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