Heart Warning Signs in Obese 3-Year-Olds
Study Shows Young Obese Children Have High Levels of C-Reactive Protein
WebMD News Archive
March 1, 2010 -- Obese
children as young as age 3 show signs of inflammation similar to that
linked to heart
disease in adults, a new study shows.
Researchers found much higher than expected levels of the inflammation
indicator C-reactive protein, and two other inflammation markers, in obese children enrolled in a nationwide health
C-reactive protein (CRP) is considered by many to be an important early
warning sign of heart disease and levels tend to be elevated in adults
who are overweight or obese.
But the study is among the first to suggest that obesity in very young
children leads to elevated CRP and other markers of systemic inflammation.
"This was definitely a surprise to us," pediatrician and study co-author
Eliana M. Perrin, MD, MPH, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
tells WebMD. "The fact that we saw this in children as young as 3 could
certainly be cause for concern."
Elevated CRP Common in Obese Kids
The study included more than 16,000 children between the ages of 1 and 17
who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
between 1999 and 2006.
Based on body
mass index (BMI) scores, the children were classified as healthy
weight, overweight, obese, and very obese.
Nearly 70% fell into the healthy weight range, 15% were
overweight, 11% were obese, and 3.5% were very obese.
Among children between the ages of 3 and 5, just over 42% of those who were
very obese had elevated CRP levels, compared to about 17% of children who were
classified as healthy weight.
The difference was even greater for older children. More than four out of
five (83%) very obese teens between the ages of 15 and 17 had elevated CRP
levels, compared to 18% of healthy-weight teens.
Findings were similar with two other markers of systemic inflammation in
adults: absolute neutrophil count (ANC) and ferritin/transferring saturation
(E/T). In obese children, but not healthy-weight children, elevated E/T levels
were seen beginning at age 6 and elevated ANC levels were found starting at age
The study was published today online, and will also appear in the April
issue of Pediatrics.
"We measured these two other markers of inflammation just in case something
quirky was going on with CRP," Perrin says. "What we saw was a remarkably
consistent association between early obesity and inflammation."