MONDAY, March 1, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Obese children as young as 3 could harbor a warning sign that they're at risk of heart disease in the future, new research suggests.
In a study published online March 1 in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found higher levels of C-reactive protein -- a sign of inflammation and heart disease risk -- in obese kids. They also found higher levels of two other signs of inflammation in kids starting at ages 6 and 9.
"We're seeing a relationship between weight status and elevated inflammatory markers much earlier than we expected," study author Asheley Cockrell Skinner, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said in a university news release. "Most adults understand that being overweight or obese isn't good for them. But not as many people realize that it may be unhealthy for young children to be overweight."
The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing data collected between 1999 and 2006 in a national survey. More than 16,000 children aged 1 to 17 took part in the study.
Nearly 15 percent of the children were defined as overweight, 11 percent were obese and 3.5 percent were considered very obese.
"A lot more work needs to be done before we figure out the full implication of these findings," study co-author Dr. Eliana Perrin, of the University of North Carolina, said in the news release. "But this study tells us that very young, obese children already have more inflammation than children who are not obese, and that's very concerning. It may help motivate us as physicians and parents to take obesity at younger ages more seriously."
For more about kids and heart health, visit the American Heart Association.