A study published in the Winter 2007 issue of the Journal of Cardiometabolic Syndrome suggests that obese children often show the same symptoms of early heart disease (HD)
as their heavy adult counterparts.

Researchers studied 168 kids (ages 10–18) with early HD symptoms ranging from heart murmurs to chest pain. Based on body mass index (BMI), 33 of the children were classified as obese, 20 were at risk for obesity and 115 were at a normal weight.

The researchers found that as BMI increased, the children had changes in heartbeat similar to those often seen in obese adults. This is important because scientists had typically noted such changes only in overweight adults and had thought they were the result of years of being obese.

“Many of these changes that have been seen in adults were assumed to be from long-standing obesity, but it may be that these changes start much earlier in life,” theorized one of the lead researchers.

The authors recommended that future research be conducted to determine the age at which cardiac changes occur and whether such changes can be reversed with weight loss and lifestyle changes. The researchers also suggested that pediatricians use the study findings to counsel children and their parents about the health risks associated with being obese and the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.