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Study: Health Risks of Childhood Obesity

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In the latest alarming study about childhood obesity, researchers have found that obese children appear to develop risks for heart disease usually not seen until adulthood -- increasing their health risks even further as they get older.

While not entirely surprising, researchers in the UK have found that, compared to normal-weight children, obese children had significantly higher blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as thicker heart muscles.

These risk factors can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke by 30 percent to 40 percent when these children reach adulthood, the researchers warned.

Based on 2010 global data, about 43 million children under age 5 were considered overweight. And while being overweight in adulthood is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity's effect on children has not been as clear.

Plus: Join the Early Years Fit Generation

For the report, which was published in the journal BMJ, researchers analyzed 63 studies that measured weight and risk for cardiovascular disease in children and teens between 5 and 15 years. In all, more than 49,000 children were included in these studies, which took place in 23 "highly developed countries" and were published between 2000 and 2011.

Still, children – and their bodies – are resilient. The long term effect that obesity has on the health of children's hearts may be worrying, the researchers conclude that the good news is that they can all be mitigated with a healthy diet and exercise.

Do you have an overweight child that you're concerned about? Let us know what steps you're taking to get back on a healthy track. 

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