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Weight Gain During Early Childhood Tied to Increased Heart Risk

Update Date: Dec 23, 2013 03:40 PM EST

Obesity has been tied to several health factors, such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Several studies have found that regardless of age, being obese negatively affects health. In a new study, researchers found that when young children gained a lot of weight during early childhood, their risk of developing high blood pressure and other heart issues spike during their preteen years.

"There's a natural tendency early in life for children to thin out as they grow taller and gain stature faster than they gain weight," Dr. Mark D. DeBoer said according to Reuters. However, at a certain point, children start to gain weight faster if they are not careful about what they eat and how much they exercise.

According to DeBoer, who studies obesity in young children at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, weight gain, which he called adiposity rebound, often occurs between four and six-years-old. In the latest study, which DeBoer was involved with, researchers tracked 271 children who were born in 1995 or 1996. The team, headed by Dr. Satomi Koyama of Dokkyo Medical University in Mibu, Tochigi, Japan measured the children's weight and height at least once every single year until the children turned12.

After studying the children's weight and height growth, the researchers found that the lowest body mass index (BMI) occurred at the adiposity rebound point. After that point, BMI started to increase and continued to every year. The researchers reported that for both boys and girls, those who hit the adiposity rebound earlier were more likely to be heavier by the age of 12. For example, the researchers found that boys who started gaining weight faster at the age of three had a BMI of 21 by the age of 12. For boys who started gaining weight at the age of seven, their average BMI as preteens was 17.

Aside from higher BMIs, boys who hit the adiposity rebound earlier also had higher levels of triglycerides and blood pressure. The researchers stated that these levels were still in the normal range, but they could be an early indicator of obesity and its health complications later on in life.

"Physicians should be tracking body mass index and should be checking for kids who are headed in the direction of being more obese," Dr. Stephen Daniels, who was not a part of the study, said. "The message is probably still more general, in terms of families working with pediatricians and family physicians to make sure that families have a healthy diet (and) that they have healthy opportunities for activity."

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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