Having a family history of obesity and cardiometabolic disease are important risk factors for childhood obesity, Italian research shows.
Scientists have identified high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and high blood lipid levels as high risk factors, and hope the results increase medical awareness of the impact of family history on childhood obesity.
Researchers from the University of Messina, Italy, also discovered that severity of obesity in younger children is a paramount concern in the battle to reduce childhood obesity rates. While diagnoses of childhood obesity grow, it is the severity of obesity which researchers say increases the risk of developing health complications.
“If this obesity persists over time, these children will have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic complications in young adulthood,” said lead author Dr. Domenico Corica.
Childhood obesity has become a growing problem in the UK, with the government’s recent introduction of a sugar tax part of a series of measures designed to reduce children’s sugar intake.
Campaigners say more needs to be done, however. Action on Sugar is calling for additional measures such as the tax extending to all sweets, while the Obesity Health Alliance wants restrictions on junk food advertising before the 21:00 watershed.
Eating healthily is important for children to maintain a healthy weight, as is getting regular exercise, and while these new findings could be important from a clinical perspective, ensuring your child’s sugar intake is low is pivotal to reducing their risk of additional weight gain.
For this study, more than 250 overweight and obese children aged between 2-17 years received medical assessments, with their height and weight measured and blood samples analysed to reveal blood and lipid profiles. Additionally information from parents, siblings and grandparents was obtained and examined.
If parents, siblings and grandparents suffered cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, this was shown to increase the likelihood of early-onset childhood obesity.
Corica added: “I would like to highlight that we found the most severely obese children, even those who were very young, were showing insulin resistance. This is a very important finding that underlines the need for early intervention care programs involving health providers, schools and other government institutions, primarily to modify the lifestyle – i.e. eating habits, physical activity, screen time – of obese children and their families.”
Because the findings were exclusive to children living in Italy, the researchers now plan to roll out their trial in other countries.
The findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology.

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