Study: Childhood obesity quadruples chances of adult hypertension

October 3, 2013

Obese children have a four
times greater risk of having
high blood pressure when
they reach adulthood compared
to normal weight kids,
new research shows.
The study authors also
found that overweight children
had double the risk of
high blood pressure, or hypertension,
later in life.
“We’ve shown that the risk
for hypertension starts in
childhood,” said study author
Dr. Sara Watson, a pediatric
endocrinology fellow
at Riley Hospital for Children
at Indiana University in
Indianapolis. “That period
is very important. There are
changes in obese children
that contribute to risk of
cardiometabolic diseases.”
So-called cardiometabolic
diseases are caused by high
blood pressure, high blood
sugar and cholesterol levels,
and excess belly fat.
If left unchecked, high
blood pressure can lead to
cardiovascular disease, heart
attack and stroke.
Starting in 1986, the researchers
tracked the development
of over 1,100
healthy adolescents from Indianapolis.
Doctors checked
their height, weight and
blood pressure twice a year,
finding that about two-thirds
were normal weight, while 16
percent were obese and 16
percent were overweight.
The researchers followed
up this year with the nowadult
study participants.
About 26 percent of obese
children had ended up with
high blood pressure as adults,
compared with 14 percent of
overweight children and just
6 percent of normal weight
children. The team was
scheduled to report on its
data Thursday at an American
Heart Association meeting
in New Orleans.
Watson said the increased
risk for kids who are simply
overweight is in some ways
more troubling than the risk
associated for obese children.
“The risk is double for the
kids that are overweight,”
Watson said. “Right now, a
lot of our focus is on obese
children, but I think it’s important
when kids are in the
overweight category to address
them as well, because
their risk is high, too.”
The 27-year study is important
“because there are
relatively few studies that
have been done looking at
the long-term impact of
childhood obesity on adult
health,” said Myles Faith, an
associate professor of nutrition
at the Gillings School of
Global Public Health at the
University of North Carolina,
in Chapel Hill. “It takes
a long time to see the development
of disease, and following
children over time is
a mighty work. These longterm
studies are a precious
resource for science.”