The results of a two-year study involving obese youth spotlight America’s growing weight problem. According to lead author Linyuan Jing with Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, children as young as eight years old are showing signs of heart disease—and it’s possible those signs could be showing up even younger.
The study monitored 40 children and teens, half of whom were obese and the others considered a healthy weight. At the end of the study, researchers determined 40% of the obese kids had a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease due to abnormally thickened heart muscles, which can make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body.
Explaining that the youngest participants in the study were eight-year-olds, Jing believes it is likely kids even younger also had signs. She warns that although they may not show any outward signs of heart disease, young children who carry excess weight may encounter heart problems and related conditions in adulthood—perhaps even premature death.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that even with recent declines in some areas, obesity affects more than 12 million children and teens in the United States. Jing and her team are planning a follow-up study to determine whether or not the changes are reversible through weight loss.