Obese toddlers show signs of heart damage before their first birthday, a new study has found.
Researchers looked at the heart scans of more than 400 obese children and found clear differences in the structure of their hearts.
Children with a body-mass index higher than 30 had heart muscle that is 30 percent thicker than in normal-weight babies.
Specifically scans showed enlargement and thickening in the left ventricle, which is the key pumping chamber in the heart.
Experts said that the data should be alarming to public health experts because it shows that obesity at a young age can have lasting impacts on a child’s heart structure and growth.
Experts said that the data should be alarming to public health experts because it shows that obesity at a young age can have lasting impacts on a child’s heart structure and growth (stock image)
CHILDHOOD AND TEENAGE OBESITY EPIDEMIC IN THE UNITED STATES
Obesity is a growing epidemic across the country as nearly a third of children are obese or overweight, and are five times more likely to be obese as adults.
And the percent of teens that are overweight or obese has more than doubled in the past 30 years.
Nearly 12.5 million (17 percent) of American children between the ages of two and 19 are considered overweight according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Children are considered obese if their body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of weight in relation to height, falls at or above the 95th percentile on the CDC growth charts.
It can also be defined as weighing more than 20 percent above what is ideal for someone’s height and weight.
This would mean the child’s BMI is higher than 95 percent of other kids of the same age and sex, according to the agency.
Obesity early in life is linked to a series of health effects later in life, including heart disease and diabetes, and can even lower an individual’s life expectancy.
Abnormally enlarged or thick heart muscles are early markers for heart disease, and early damage could cause a host of later health effects, including early heart failure.
The researchers at Constantin Opris hospital in Baia Mare, Romania, also found that nearly all of the overweight babies were bottle-fed instead of breast-fed, and experts have warned that formula milk could be fueling the spike in obesity rates.
The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona and reported by the Telegraph, prompted another set of calls for action to address the growth in obesity rates globally.
Rates of child obesity are particularly high in both the United States and Britain.
In both places the rates have grown astronomically in recent years – nearly one in three children in both countries is overweight or obese, and those numbers don’t seem to be slowing down.
The study was conducted on 455 obese children in Romania who had been seen in cardiology clinics.
Romania has the lowest obesity rates in the European Union, with just 9.4 percent of adults classified as obese.
That number is compared with roughly 35.7 percent of adults in the US considered obese and 24.9 percent in the UK.
Experts have said this should cause alarm in other countries with worse records and trigger immediate action to tackle obesity as early into an individual’s life as possible.
Tam Fry, who works at the National Obesity Forum in the UK told the Telegraph: ‘When obesity exacerbates their heart health in toddlerhood, alarm bells should be ringing.
‘We don’t know what the full extent might be since we have have no idea how many preschoolers we have here.
‘These Romanian children may well die before their parents as well as suffering lifelong illness. ours will be no different.’