In just the last three decades childhood obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled, and in 2012 over one third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese.i What impact will it have on their health in adulthood? The answer may come from the results of a new study from Italy—and it may not be a rosy one.
A team of researchers from the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital analyzed the health data of more than 5,700 healthy kids between the ages of 2 and 6 years. Roughly 10 percent of the children had become overweight or obese in the last year, and nearly half of that group was already showing signs of being at a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Metabolic indicators such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar levels were present even in children who had only been obese for a short period of time, and scientists believe those indicators could lead to health problems earlier in adulthood.
The results prompted researchers to recommend screening kids at a younger age to detect such abnormalities, especially if there is a family history. They also encourage healthy diet and lifestyle choices such as increasing daily physical activity and reducing the amount of trans fats and sugar consumed.
Before it was banned in 1972 for its damaging effects on human health, the pesticide known as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (or DDT) was widely used on U.S. crops. The problem? DDT can take more than 15 years to break down in the environment, and in many parts of the world it is still used for agricultural and disease control purposes.
In addition to its probable carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects, DDT has been shown to affect healthy liver function, contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and cause damage to the human nervous and reproductive systems. Now, a new study involving mice reveals that DDT exposure may be linked to a higher risk of obesity and related conditions later in life—in particular among women.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis found that exposure to DDT in the womb leads to a higher risk in women of developing metabolic syndrome, defined by the Mayo Clinic as: “a cluster of conditions—increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels—that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.”
More so than their male counterparts, the female mice exposed to DDT before birth showed signs of decreased metabolism and an inability to regulate body temperature, which study author Michele La Merrill said leads to more calories being stored instead of burned. In male mice, DDT exposure did not have the same effects and only caused a slight increase in blood glucose levels.