Gaining weight during childhood apparently takes a heavy toll on future heart health. According to a report in the November 23, 2004, issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, obesity that starts in childhood is a consistent predictor of an overdeveloped left ventricle of the heart in early adulthood.

The researchers followed 467 children for an average of 21.5 years and found that increased levels of left ventricular heart mass corresponded with increased body mass index (BMI) during childhood. According to lead author Gerald S. Berenson, MD, the study showed that “a high childhood BMI predicts heart enlargement in adulthood.

“This underscores the importance of obesity in the development of early cardiac enlargement and the need for early prevention,” Berenson said. Stressing that children need healthy diets and exercise, he stated that “health education needs to start in kindergarten.”