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Chemical Exposure Tied to Metabolic Syndrome in Overweight Kids

Update Date: Feb 25, 2014 01:28 PM EST

According to a new study, overweight children who have been exposed to high levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have a greater risk of developing the metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a term that includes health risks such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions increase mortality risk as well as the development of other medical complications.

PFCs are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are commonly used in carpets, furniture and textiles. The chemicals are used as stain and water repellants. For this study, the research team recruited 499 children in the third grade. The researchers tested the children's blood samples, which were collected in 1997 as a part of the European Youth Heart Study, and looked for PFC exposure levels and metabolic changes. The samples provided data on PFC, insulin, triglyceride and glucose levels. The team also recorded data on the children's body mass index (BMI), which measures height in relation to weight, and waist circumference.

After conducting a cross-sectional study, the researchers concluded that overweight children with high levels of some PFCs were more likely to have higher insulin and triglyceride levels. For children of normal weight, the researchers did not find a relationship between PFC exposure and these specific metabolic markers. The researchers stated that in order to prevent the metabolic syndrome, chemical exposure needs to be maintained and reduced, and children's weights need to be better managed.

"Our results suggest that these chemicals, which linger in the environment for years, could represent an important public health hazard that merits further study," said one of the study's authors, Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann, MSC, of the University of Southern Denmark. "Overweight children who were exposed to higher levels of PFCs tended to have higher concentrations of insulin and triglycerides in their blood, and these metabolic changes could signal the beginnings of the metabolic syndrome."

The study, "Adiposity and Glycemic Control in Children Exposed to Perfluorinated Compounds," was published in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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