Sian Claire Owen, Medical Journalist for Cardio Debate

Childhood obesity is on the rise. According to the Obesity Health Alliance – a coalition of over 40 organisations aiming to tackle obesity – almost one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they start primary school, and if current trends continue, by 2020 over 50 per cent of all children in the UK will be obese or overweight. [1]

And the negative effects of childhood obesity can last well into adulthood, with increased risks of developing pre-diabetes and early onset of other cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers from the University of Surrey, UK, conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of over 300,000 participants, recording the Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference and skin fold thickness in children and then compared these measurements in the same patients 25 years later. [2]

They concluded that childhood obesity predicts the risk of adult adiposity, which is associated with an increased risk of early onset adult atherosclerotic CVD (ACVD) as measured by carotid intima media thickness – hypertension, stroke, ischaemic heart disease and pre-diabetes.

Researchers also observed that while BMI is an adequate predictor of pre-diabetes and increased carotid intima media thickness, it was a weak predictor of hypertension and ACVD. Furthermore, although BMI is a popular measurement, other measurements like waist circumference and skinfold thickness were considered more predictive. However, the message remains clear – reducing childhood obesity should be a priority for healthcare policy makers.

Lead author Dr Martin Whyte from the University of Surrey, tells Medical News Today that: “It is worrying that obesity is becoming endemic in our society. [3]

“The adverse effects of adult obesity are well known but what we have found is that obesity in childhood can cause lasting arterial damage which could potentially lead to life threatening illness. This is something that we need to address to protect adult health and reduce pressure on the NHS.”

And at a time when there are severe pressures on the NHS, tackling childhood obesity is an area where substantial disease prevention is attainable.


  2. Childhood predictors of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. A systematic review and meta-analysis. O. Ajala, F. Mold, C. Boughtom, D. Cooke, M. Whyte. Obesity Rev 2017; doi: 10.1111/obr.12561