Childhood Obesity Causes Heart Disease


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Written by: Kirsten Cowart

In imaging tests that were conducted over obese children, some of which were as young as 8 years old, all showed signs of significant heart muscle abnormalities and heart disease, all according to the research that was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2015.

This study compared 20 different obese children with 20 normal-weight children. The researchers were able to find that obesity was linked to 27% more muscle mass inside the left ventricle of their hearts and 12% thicker heart muscles, which are both signs of heart disease.

With the results of the study, 40% of the obese children were considered “high-risk” due to the problems with the thickened muscles in the heart, which were associated with impaired pumping ability. Although none of the children in the study had showed physical symptoms, researchers caution that the heart problems during childhood may actually lead to more complicated health conditions when they reach adulthood as well as premature death from heart disease.

Linyuan Jing, Ph.D., who was the lead study author and researcher at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania had this to say concerning the study,

Parents Need to Help their Children Learn Proper Nutrition

“Parents should be highly motivated to help their children maintain a healthy weight. Ultimately we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible; however, it is possible that there could be permanent damage. This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle.”

Jin and fellow colleagues were able to measure a child’s obesity was based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standard growth charts. Pediatric obesity, however, is determined by whether or not a child’s body mass index – a type of calculation that is derived from a child’s weight and height – exceeds the 95th percentile.

Out of the 20 different obese children that were used in the study, seven of them were teenagers. Among those seven teens, five of them had a body mass index of over 35 (the healthy range for children varies, but is typically 18.5-25 for adults). Some of the obese children even had conditions that were associated with excess weight that includes asthma, depression, and high blood pressure. All of the 40 children in the study underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test so that the researchers would be able to measure the dimensions and function of their hearts.

The Researchers decided to exclude children with diabetes and those who were unable to fit into the magnetic resonance imaging machine to be able to have measurements taken of their hearts. Dr. Jing stated that,

“As a result, this means the actual burden of heart disease in obese children may have been under­-estimated in our study because the largest kids who may have been the most severely affected could not be enrolled.”

The researchers also made note that not all of the obese children that took part in the study had showed any signs of heart disease.

In the United States, one in three children that were ranged from age 2-19 are either clinically obese or overweight, placing them at a greater risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  

Unfortunately, the typical American diet for our children has been cited as a large contributor to the problem with even french fries accounting for a total of 25% of a child’s vegetable intake and fruit juice, which is often extremely high in sugar and low in fiber, helping to account for 40% of a child’s fruit intake.

The lack of regular physical activity and high amounts of screen time in front of TV’s and computers have also been taken into account for the issues developing with children’s health.

Heart Disease Can Start In Children As Young As 8!

Despite childhood obesity being such a common problem, researchers were surprised to see the evidence of heart disease among those as young as 8 years old.

“This implies that obese children even younger than 8 years old likely have signs of heart disease too,” Jing said. “This was alarming to us. Understanding the long-term ramifications of this will be critical as we deal with the impact of the pediatric obesity epidemic.”


Co-authors are Cassi M. Friday, M.S.; Jonathan D. Suever, Ph.D.; Nivedita Umasankar, B.S.; Christopher M. Haggerty, Ph.D.; Gregory J. Wehner, B.S.; Sean M. Hamlet, M.S.; David K. Powell, Ph.D.; Aurelia Radulescu, M.D.; H. Lester Kirchner, Ph.D.; Frederick H. Epstein, Ph.D.; and Brandon K. Fornwalt, M.D., Ph.D.

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Kirsten Campbell
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Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
Kirsten Campbell
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