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Metabolic Syndrome Found in Many Young Kids

Syndrome Tied to Diabetes, Heart Disease; Poor Diet, Inactivity Raise Risk
WebMD Health News

June 2, 2005 -- With more U.S. children than ever before dealing with diabetes, health experts are warning that many others may be heading in that direction, courtesy of metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that have been shown to raise the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Even young children can be affected. A new study from Kansas shows that out of 375 second- and third-grade students, 5% had metabolic syndrome and 45% had one or two risk factors for it.

Those risk factors include central obesity (a big waist), elevated blood pressure, high blood levels of fats called triglycerides, low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, and higher-than-normal blood sugar levels (yet not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes). Those problems can often be overcome with a healthy diet and physical activity.

Global Problem

The findings were presented in Nashville at the American College of Sports Medicine's 52nd Annual Meeting. But American kids aren't the only ones at risk for metabolic aren't the only ones at risk for metabolic syndrome.

Earlier this week, it was reported that half a million European children may be facing metabolic syndrome. That news came from the 14th European Congress on Obesity, held in Athens, Greece.

Syndrome Seen in 7-Year-Olds

The Kansas data comes from a three-year project that aims to boost physical activity at school. The study is still being conducted. So far, the researchers have released figures on the kids' health status at the beginning of the experiment.

Out of about 2,000 children in the study, 375 got in-depth blood tests. That let exercise physiologist Katrina DuBose, PhD, and colleagues screen for metabolic syndrome.

"I was pretty surprised to see the prevalence of 5%," DuBose tells WebMD. She says she had seen U.S. data from 1999-2002 showing that 6% of U.S. adolescents had metabolic syndrome during 1999-2002 and expected that numbers to be lower for her much-younger students.

Most Common Risk Factor: High Blood Pressure

To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, the children had to have at least three of the condition's risk factors. Many more were teetering on the border. Of the 45% with one or two risk factors, the most common factor was high blood pressure.most common factor was high blood pressure.

That also surprised DuBose. "I would have thought that obesityobesity was going to be the most common component," she says. DuBose says she checked other studies and found that "increased blood pressure in children seems to be a bigger problem than people might intuitively think."

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