Early Warning Signs for Kids

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Metabolic syndrome in children more likely with earlier BMI gains

December 22, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) A variety of early signs might help clinicians and parents learn if children are at higher risk for diabetes. The trick is seeing the signs early enough.

A recent study identified one sign that may be helpful in assessing children's risk of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of five symptoms that indicated a person is at higher risk for developing diabetes.

With diabetes, the hormone insulin does not work properly in processing the sugar in a person's blood.

The sign the researchers found was an earlier increase in children's body mass index, or a type of faster weight gain earlier in life.

"Ask your doctor about your child's metabolic health."

The study, led by Satomi Koyama, MD, PhD, of the Department of Pediatrics at Dokkyo Medical University in Japan, looked at risk for metabolic syndrome in children.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a condition involving five specific symptoms that indicate a person is at higher risk for developing diabetes.

The five components of metabolic syndrome include:

  • high blood pressure
  • glucose intolerance (high blood sugar levels, usually because insulin is not working properly)
  • lower levels of the "good" kind of cholesterol (HDL-C)
  • high triglycerides
  • a large amount of belly fat

The researchers wanted to know whether a child's risk of metabolic syndrome at age 12 was related to how old they were when they started to experience an increase in body mass index.

Body mass index (BMI) is a ratio of a person's height to weight and is used to determine if someone is a healthy weight or is under- or overweight.

The researchers suspected that the earlier a child started to increase in BMI after infancy, the more likely it was the child would meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome at age 12. The researchers followed 271 children, born in 1995 and 1996, until they were 12 years old.

The children's BMI measurements were taken when they were 4, 8, 12, and 18 months old and then once every year after that. The children's blood pressure and blood lipids were measured when they 12 years old.

Then the researchers compared increases in BMI among the children to their risk of high blood pressure and high lipids levels at age 12.

They found that children whose BMI had begun increasing before age 4 were more likely to have a greater BMI as they got older.

These children were also more likely to have lipid levels that indicated they may be on the path to pre-diabetes. Those lipid levels were representative of children who had higher triglycerides and other metabolic measurements that indicated higher likelihood of insulin resistance.

In boys, experiencing an increase in BMI at younger ages was also linked to high blood pressure at age 12.

The researchers therefore concluded from this long-term study that children whose BMI starts increasing sooner are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome as they approach the teen years.

The authors suggested that children's BMI be monitored early on to help identify increased risks for metabolic syndrome.

The study was published December 23 in the journal Pediatrics.

The research was funded by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 22, 2013
Last Updated:
April 22, 2014