Heart dangers seen in very young obese children

WASHINGTON Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:24pm EDT

Pedestrians wait to walk across a street near Times Square in New York August 28, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Pedestrians wait to walk across a street near Times Square in New York August 28, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Obese children as young as 7 have worrying levels of compounds linked to heart disease and heart attacks, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

They found that obese youngsters had up to 10 times the normal amount of a compound that reflects inflammation, and another that helps blood to clot -- both known to raise the risk of heart attacks and heart disease in adults.

"Our study finding suggests that we need more aggressive interventions for weight control in obese children," said Dr. Nelly Mauras of Nemours Children's Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, who led the study.

Obesity is hard to measure in children but pediatricians generally classify a child as obese if he or she is in the 95th percentile of weight for their age.

Mauras and colleagues studied 202 healthy children, 115 of them obese, and half of them past puberty.

The obese children had high levels of c-reactive protein, associated with inflammation, which is itself linked to heart disease. They also had abnormally high levels of the clotting factor fibrinogen compared to lean children of the same age and sex, Mauras told a meeting of the Endocrine Society.

None of the children had other symptoms that might point to danger, such as the high blood pressure, high blood glucose and high cholesterol known collectively as the metabolic syndrome.

"Doctors often do not treat obesity in children now unless they have other features of the metabolic syndrome," Mauras said in a statement.

"This practice should be reconsidered."

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