Childhood obesity may boost risk of syndrome X

By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Obesity in childhood strongly predicts the subsequent development of insulin resistance syndrome (syndrome X), researchers report in the January issue of Diabetes.

Senior author Dr. Gerald S. Berenson told Reuters Health that obesity is increasing in the US, and "increasing obesity is associated with more diabetes and adult onset diabetes occurring at a younger age." Furthermore, "childhood obesity predicts adult obesity and is already associated with abnormal changes of cardiovascular risk factors."

To establish what contribution such obesity might have to the development of syndrome X, Dr. Berenson, and colleagues at Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, examined data from 745 youngsters between 8 and 17 years old who took part in the community-based Bogalusa Heart Study.

The researchers identified those in the highest quartile for body mass index (BMI), fasting insulin levels, blood pressure, and lipoprotein variables. The incidence of the combination or "clustering" of these four risk variables was re-evaluated in adulthood.

At a mean of 11.6 years of follow-up, there were significant positive trends between childhood BMI and insulin quartiles, and the incidence of clustering in adulthood.

Children in the top BMI quartile were 11.7 times more likely than those in the bottom quartile to develop clustering as adults. This association remained significant even after adjusting for childhood insulin levels. However, adjusting for childhood BMI eliminated the influence of insulin.

These results, the researchers conclude, "indicate that childhood obesity is a powerful predictor of development of syndrome X and underscore the importance of weight control early in life."

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