Trunk fat causes heavy load for boys

February 04, 2002

DALLAS, Feb. 4 - Boys with chubby bellies are more likely to have high blood pressure than their slimmer counterparts, according to a report in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study, which included 920 healthy children, did not find a similar association in girls. "To our knowledge, this study is the first to identify a gender difference in the association between fat distribution and blood pressure in children and adolescents," says the study's lead author, Dympna Gallagher, Ed.D., associate professor of nutrition, Obesity Research Center, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, Institute of Human Nutrition, New York.

Elevated blood pressure is associated with increased risk for developing high blood pressure as an adult. Other studies have shown that young adults who have high blood pressure develop left ventricular hypertrophy, or an enlarged heart, that can also increase the risk of having a heart attack early in life. Researchers measured trunk fat distribution using skin-fold thickness and duel energy absorptiometry (DXA). DXA is a method for assessing bone mineral density and body composition. It involves scanning the body to distinguish fat and lean tissues.

This study included 442 girls (145 African American, 161 Asian and 136 Caucasian) and 478 boys (128 African American, 184 Asian, and 166 Caucasian). Ages ranged from 5 to 18 years.

Significant race differences in systolic blood pressure were found between African American, and Caucasian girls only, with African-American girls being 3 mm Hg higher on average. For diastolic, there were race differences found between African-American and Asian boys only, with African-American boys being 2 mmHg higher on average.

"Trunk fat by skin fold and DXA measurement was positively associated with systolic and diastolic pressure. However, when we looked at the gender groups separately, we found the relationship was limited to boys and this difference was not influenced by race," says Gallagher.

"In adults, a greater accumulation of trunk fat is known to be a predisposing factor for increased cardiovascular risk. Therefore, children with a similar fat distribution may be at increased risk," she adds.
-end-
Co-authors in the study were Qing He, Ph.D.; Mary Horlick, M.D.; Barbara Fedun, R.N.; Jack Wang, M.S.; Richard N. Pierson, Jr, M.D, and Stanley Heshka, Ph.D.

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American Heart Association

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