Chubby children risk developing unfavorable lipid profile in childhood, UB study shows

June 15, 2000

SEATTLE -- University at Buffalo investigators have determined that children with a high body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity, are likely to have high levels of triglycerides and low levels of protective cholesterol in childhood, dyslipidemia conditions that contribute to heart disease in adulthood.

The study ruled out low birth weight -- also thought to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease in adulthood -- as a risk factor for dyslipidemia in children.

Results of the study were presented here today (June 16) at the annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.

"We think that one's lipid profile in adulthood may be directly related to the profile in childhood," said Jian Liu, a doctoral student in the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and lead author on the study. "There may be some genetic factors that influence lipid profiles, but most of the influence comes from lifestyle factors.

"This study shows it is more important to look at body mass index than birth weight when assessing the potential for dyslipidemia in children." Every child should get plenty of exercise to maintain a healthy BMI, he added.

Liu and colleagues used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted in the United States from 1988-94 in their analysis.

The researchers assessed birth weight and BMI of 4,089 children between the ages of 4 and 11, and compared the relationship of these factors to total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

They found no statistical differences between weight at birth and total cholesterol and triglycerides in childhood. However, there were significant differences in levels of HDL, the protective cholesterol. Children who weighed less than 2,500 grams at birth had the lowest levels of HDL (55 mg/dl), while those with normal birth weight had the highest, an average of 58.5 mg/dl.

When birth weight and other potential confounding factors, such as maternal age and smoking during pregnancy, were taken into account, the analysis showed significant differences between children with a low and high BMI in levels of triglycerides and HDL. A BMI above the 75th percentile on the child BMI scale was considered high.

Children who fell into the high BMI group were found to have an average triglyceride reading of 117 mg/dl, compared to 95.2 mg/dl for those in the low BMI group. HDL cholesterol readings for high and low BMI group were 51.2 and 45.9 mg/dl, respectively. There was no significant difference in total cholesterol between the two groups.
Also contributing to this study were Germaine M. Buck, Ph.D., and John Weiner, Ph.D., of the UB Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.

University at Buffalo

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