MONDAY, Oct. 25, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- The arteries of obese children have a degree of stiffness normally seen in adults with heart disease, according to a new study.
Canadian researchers evaluated 63 obese children, average age 13, and 55 normal weight children. The obese children had abnormal results on an ultrasound test of the heart and blood vessels that measured how fast blood flowed through the body.
Of special note was stiffness of the aorta -- the body's largest artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood to all the other arteries.
"The normal aorta has elastic qualities that buffer the flow of blood. When that elasticity is lost, aortic stiffness results -- a sign of developing cardiovascular disease," said study author Dr. Kevin Harris, from BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, in a Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada news release. "Aortic stiffness is associated with cardiovascular events and early death."
It's as if the aging process has been accelerated in the aortas of obese children, he added.
Future research should examine whether arterial stiffness in obese children can be reversed with treatment such as improved diet and exercise, Harris said.
The study findings, to be presented Monday at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, are alarming, said Heart and Stroke Foundation spokeswoman Dr. Beth Abramson.
"We know there is an association between unhealthy lifestyles and heart disease," she said in the news release. "Our kids are at risk. Poor nutrition and inactivity are threatening their health and well-being. We must rethink the lifestyle standards we have accepted as a society to protect the future health of our kids."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips for helping children maintain a healthy weight.