Childhood Obesity Impacts Heart Health

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Obese children had significant changes in myocardial geometry and function, which may be indicative of early onset of cardiac problems.

Obese children already exhibit physical and functional signs of heart problems, according to data published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Researchers evaluated the hearts of 61 obese (mean age, 13.5 years; mean BMI, 30.8) and 40 nonobese (mean age, 14.1 years; mean BMI, 19) children and adolescents using two-dimensional (2D) echocardiography. They also assessed blood chemistry, like lipid and glucose metabolism, in all participants.

Results showed enlarged left- and right-sided cardiac chambers, thicker left ventricular (LV) walls and, as a result, increased LV mass in obese children when compared with nonobese children.

Additionally, obese children exhibited decreased tissue Doppler-derived peak systolic velocity and regional basoseptal strain, even though LV ejection fraction was comparable between the obese and nonobese groups.

Compared with nonobese children, obese children had reduced 2D speckle tracking-derived longitudinal and circumferential strain of the left ventricle, both of which were independently associated with obesity.

Obese children also had impaired diastolic function, as compared with their nonobese counterparts.

The researchers observed increased blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, parameters of glucose metabolism and lower HDL cholesterol in obese children vs. nonobese children.

Obesity has been linked to a number of heart problems, including left ventricular (LV) dilation, heart failure and LV hypertrophy in adults. The connection between isolated obesity and cardiovascular (CV) risk, however, is uncertain because, on its own, obesity is associated with other CV risk factors, such as diabetes and dyslipidemia.

“Children are ideal subjects to observe the effect of obesity on the heart,” lead study author Norman Mangner, MD, of the Heart Center Leipzig in Germany, said in a press release. “This is because they are likely free of clinically relevant cardiovascular disease adults may suffer from.”

More studies are necessary to determine if these unfavorable alterations can be reversed with weight loss as well as whether these early CV changes have any predictive value, according to Dr. Mangner.


  1. Mangner N et al. J Am Coll Cardiol Img. 2014;doi:10.1016/j.jcmg.2014.08.006.