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Children's Health

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Obese Kids Who Lose Weight May Cut Heart Risk, Too

Study Shows Benefits for Heart Health in Obese Children Who Lose Weight Before Adulthood

Benefits of Reaching a Healthy Weight in Childhood continued...

Compared to people whose weight was normal over the entire time of the studies, those who remained obese from childhood to adulthood had a fivefold greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes. They also had a nearly threefold greater risk for developing high blood pressure and a twofold greater risk for having low HDL "good" cholesterol.

Obese children who became obese adults also had nearly two times the risk for plaque buildup in the neck arteries -- a major cause of stroke.

For most of these outcomes, study participants who were obese during childhood but normal weight as adults had a risk similar to participants who were never obese.

Olli T. Raitakari, MD, who was the review's senior researcher, says it is significant that the findings were similar across all four studies, which were conducted in Europe, Australia, and the U.S.

He says the findings highlight the importance of making the prevention of childhood obesity a top public health goal.

"Once children become obese they have a very high risk for becoming obese adults," he tells WebMD. "From a public health standpoint, we would derive the most benefit from preventing obesity rather than treating it."

Finding the Riskiest Kids

Pediatrics professor Albert Rocchini, MD, of the University of Michigan agrees.

In an editorial published with the review, Rocchini writes that successful efforts to keep children from becoming obese would pay off in both future health and health care savings.

He notes that if the goal is to reduce the incidence of heart disease and related health care costs, "now is the time to do whatever it takes to develop more effective methods for both the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity."

Rocchini, who directs the division of cardiology at the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, recommends targeting prevention efforts to children at high risk for obesity and their caregivers.

"We have a pretty good idea who the high-risk kids are," he tells WebMD. "We need to do a better job of working with these kids and their caregivers to give them the strategies and opportunity to be successful."

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