Obese children likely to have stiffer arteries

April 13th, 2010 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 13 (IANS) Children with more body fat and less endurance than their fitter, leaner counterparts have stiffer arteries at a young age, says new research.
Stiff arteries are a hallmark of atherosclerosis, a typically adult condition in which blood vessels become clogged.

“When children at such a young age start getting diseases only adults used to get, it’s like the sky is falling,” said Catherine L. Davis, clinical health psychologist at Medical College of Georgia (MCG) and principal study investigator.

Using a non-invasive measure, Davis discovered that children with a greater body mass index, more body fat and less endurance had stiffer central arteries compared to leaner and fitter children.

Her most recent study involved overweight or obese children, half of whom participated in aerobic exercises after school while the other half took part in sedentary activities including board games and crafts.

Davis also found that regular exercise decreases metabolic risks linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The new study will examine the effects of exercise on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and atherosclerosis.

NAFLD, which affects about 40 percent of obese children, initially is often symptomless. But its long-term risk of inflammation and scarring, which can cause liver damage and failure, is related to hardening of the arteries.

“It’s essentially another aspect of the metabolic imbalance these children are experiencing when they’re overweight and inactive and is a signal they’re at very high risk for diabetes,” Davis said.

She already found that exercise reduces inflammation, visceral fat (a type of fat situated between the organs), body mass index and insulin levels, said an MCG release.

Children who exercised showed improvement on virtually all of those measures after just 20 to 40 minutes of daily aerobic exercise for 12 weeks.

Davis presented the findings at the 31st Annual Meeting of the Society of Behavioural Medicine.

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