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Studies show urgent need to tackle childhood obesity

Studies show urgent need to tackle childhood obesity

Publication date: Monday, 17 July 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

Two studies highlight the long-term implications of childhood obesity. A new systematic review shows that obese children have increased arterial damage and an enhanced likelihood of pre-diabetes in adulthood which, in turn, increases the chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and skin fold thickness measurements of over 300,000 children (average age of 10) were assessed in a systematic review of 18 studies and compared with results gathered from the same participants on average 25 years later.

Researchers discovered that obese children were pre-disposed to pre-diabetes and thickening of arteries in adulthood, both of which can be detrimental to their adult health. Childhood BMI also proved to be an indicator of adult hypertension demonstrating that this indicator is useful in predicting illnesses associated with obesity in adulthood (Table). Skin fold thickness was also a weak predictor of CIMT in female adults (rs0.09, p < 0.05).

Another recent genetic study confirms these results. The study used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to investigate the potential link between increased BMI and cardiovascular health. Researchers were able to use genomic data from ALSPAC to detect the likely causal relationship between higher BMI and higher blood pressure and left ventricular mass index (LVMI) in those aged 17 - 21. It is the first time that the nature of this relationship has been shown in group of young adults.

Table: Relationship between childhood BMI and adult outcomes.


Odds ratio

95% CI, p



2.02 to 5.67, p< 0.001

ACVD events (stroke, IHD)


1.02 to 1.07, p< 0.001



1.06 to 1.27, p = 0.003

CIMT (carotid intima media thickness), ACVD (atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease), IHD (ischaemic heart disease)

These studies show that obesity in childhood has long-term health implications and raises the importance of healthcare professionals in primary care making interventions in cases of child obesity to protect adult health and reduce pressure on the NHS.
Ajala O et al. Childhood predictors of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews 2017; doi: 10.1111/obr.12561

Wade KH et al. Assessing the causal role of body mass index on cardiovascular health in young adults: a Mendelian randomization and recall-by-genotype analysis. presented at the European Society of Human Genetics, Copenhagen, Denmark (Abstract: C10.3)

Topics covered:
Category: Evidence in Practice
Edition: Volume 2 Number 6 PCCJ Online 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

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