In a recent post, I highlighted a Spanish study that showed 1 out of 4 Spanish obese children have metabolic syndrome, a condition which greatly increases the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Now University of Miami researcher Sara E. Messiah, PhD, MPH, finds that about half of American obese kids also have metabolic syndrome by the ages to 12 to 14.
The results are a very real cause of concern in the medical community, considering the growing number of American kids who are becoming obese; at the time of data collection in 1999-2002, nearly 20% of children aged 8 to 14 were obese.
Metabolic Syndrome Seen in Even Younger Children
Roughly 10% of kids from age 8-11 already have metabolic syndrome, which can be defined as having at least three of the following risk factors: abnormally large waist size, high blood-sugar levels, low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, high blood fat levels, and high blood pressure.
“If a kid is age 8 with metabolic syndrome, it will take 10 years or less for that child to [develop] type 2 diabetes or heart disease,” said Messiah in a WebMD interview. “So as these kids enter adulthood, they could be faced with an entire life of chronic disease.”
John K. Stevens Jr., MD, a cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Sibley Heart Center, is seeing an increasing number of teenage patients with alarming high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, and plaque in the arteries.
“I am very fearful that in the next 10 to 20 years we will have an explosion of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease as these very young, very obese kids become 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds,” Stevens tells WebMD. “When we hear of people dying of coronary artery disease in their 30s and 40s, we are shocked and amazed and say, ‘That is too young.’ But I am fearful we are going to be seeing coronary artery disease a lot earlier in these kids growing up obese.”
Healthy Eating and Exercise the Key to Prevention and Reveral of Metabolic Syndrome
With colleagues, Messiah is developing a plan to promote strenuos exercise for kids in their clinic. If successful, she widen to program.
“There is a chance,” concludes Steven, “if people get serious about this and eat less saturated fats and exercise more and lose weight, they can reverse some of this process.”