(HealthDay News) — Nearly two-thirds of severely obese children aged 12 or younger have at least one cardiovascular risk factor, according to a study published online July 23 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

To assess the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in severely obese children and adolescents, Nathalie M.A. van Emmerik, from the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, and colleagues conducted a nationwide prospective surveillance study from July 2005 to July 2007. Pediatricians were asked to report all new cases of severe obesity in children (aged 2 to 18 years) to the Dutch Paediatric Surveillance Unit and complete a questionnaire regarding sociodemographic characteristics and cardiovascular risk factors. Severe obesity was defined as corresponding to the adult cut-off point of 35 kg/m².

The researchers found that, from 2005 to 2007, 500 children with newly diagnosed severe obesity were reported. Of the 307 children correctly classified as severely obese, cardiovascular risk factor data were available for 83 percent of children (255), and 67 percent had at least one cardiovascular risk factor (56 percent hypertension, 14 percent high blood glucose, 0.7 percent type 2 diabetes, and up to 54 percent low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol). Of the severely obese children aged 12 or younger, 62 percent already had one or more cardiovascular risk factors.

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“In conclusion, a high number (2/3) of severely obese children, even those <12 years of age, have cardiovascular risk factors,” the authors write. “Internationally accepted criteria for defining severe obesity and guidelines for the early detection and treatment of severe obesity and comorbidity are urgently needed.”

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