Sydney, July 8 Dear parents, read this carefully. Toddlers who were obese or overweight show concerning signs of cardiovascular disease at 11-12 years of age, say researchers.
For the findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, the research team examined 1,811 children whose weight and height were measured every two years (age 0-1 to 9-10 years) to determine cardiovascular disease risk scores.
At age 11-12, the participants underwent further health checks looking at blood pressure, blood vessel health, cholesterol and glucose levels.
The research highlighted the silent effects of obesity in childhood and the need to intervene early.
"Our findings are in line with the World Health Organisation's calls for urgent collaborative action to address the matter through systems-based approaches and policy implementation," said study researcher Melissa Wake from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia.
"Such policies include increasing taxes on processed foods high in fat and sugar, safer and improved public transport and walking to school pathways and making community-based sporting activities more affordable and accessible," Wake added.
The researchers found that Australian children who were obese or overweight very early in life already show evidence by age 11-12 years of stiffer arteries, thickened arterial lining and are a high risk of later developing metabolic syndrome.
This worsened the longer these young children were overweight or obese.
According to the team, until now little was known about when and how early life body mass index (BMI) impacted heart health in childhood and most studies have previously just looked at standard risk factors such as blood pressure alone.
"Previous studies have tended to rely on a single BMI measurement in childhood and then examined subsequent heart health outcomes in adulthood," said study researcher Kate Lycett.
"This overlooks the considerable BMI changes as part of normal childhood growth," she added.
"This public health crisis threatens the modest decline in cardiovascular deaths in developed countries, which has largely been achieved through preventive efforts focused on cardiovascular risk factors," the study authors wrote.
( With inputs from IANS )