A new study from presented at the European Society of Hypertension conference in London shows that children who show greater adiposity (fatness) in early life are at a substantially increased risk for hypertension and cardiometabolic problems in later life.
A group led by Professor Lawrie Beilin (University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia) followed 1186 children from birth to 14 years of age. Over this period they measured the children’s fatness and blood pressure. They found that the top 32% of the children with high risk growth trajectories (from birth to 14 years old) showed blood pressure changes which were equivalent to 40% of the adult population risk for stroke. In addition, they showed a significant increase in risk factors for hypertension and cardiometabolic disease*.
In particular, those children with accelerated gains in childhood fatness experienced abnormal blood pressure. In other words, regardless of whether children were born below, of normal birth weight, or greater than average birthweight, if they then went on to show rapid weight gain they had increased blood pressure detectable as early as 3 years of age.
According to Professor Beilin
“By following this group of children from birth to adolescence, we have shown that increasing fatness in the early years, particularly in the years from birth to 3 years of age, were associated with higher blood pressure and cardiovascular risk in later life.
This risk is really quite substantial, and if we generalise from this group we can estimate that the problems which are built up in childhood account for around 40% of the total population risk for stroke. If we could both reduce the number of overweight babies, and reduce amount of fat which children accumulate in early life, then we would see lower levels of risk for hypertension and diabetes, and other metabolic conditions.
High blood pressure is the most important preventable risk factor for premature death worldwide. By not controlling weight in childhood and adolescence, we risk predisposing many of these children to an early death”.
Commenting, Professor Anna Dominiczak (Glasgow), Vice President of the European Society of Hypertension said:
“This work shows that the way that the adiposity which children can accumulate in early life is something to be taken very seriously. It is likely that these Australian findings will be reflected by similar results in Europe and other developed countries. An overweight child has the risk of becoming an unhealthy adult”