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The scientists found negative changes in the shape and function of the hearts of these children, compared to their normal-weight peers. It's unclear whether weight loss can reverse these changes, they researchers added.
The study, published online Oct. 8 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, involved 101 young people between the ages of 9 and 16. Of these participants, 61 were obese and 40 were not.
"Children are ideal subjects to observe the effect of obesity on the heart," study author Dr. Norman Mangner, of the University of Leipzig Heart Center in Germany, said in a news release. "This is because they are likely free of clinically relevant cardiovascular disease adults may suffer from."
Using two-dimensional echocardiograms with ultrasound, the researchers compared the shape and function of the children's hearts. Specifically, the scientists examined cross-sectional images of the youths' beating hearts as well as the blood flow through their hearts. The children's blood chemistry was also analyzed.
The researchers found that obese children had much higher blood pressure and higher levels of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol than the children who were not obese. Meanwhile, the obese children's HDL, or "good," cholesterol levels were much lower. The researchers also found other warning signs of heart trouble among the obese children, including enlarged heart chambers -- a sign that their hearts were working harder.
More research is needed to determine if weight loss can reverse these negative changes in obese children's hearts, the study authors noted. They added future studies should also investigate if these changes could help predict future health issues.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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