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Monday, 29 July 2019 05:22

Metabolic Syndrome In Children

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Thanks to the obesity epidemic, diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease which were once considered the domain of old age, sadly enough are now being commonly found in children.

The rise in the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents is one of the most alarming public health issues facing the world today. World Health Organization has already declared that these non-communicable diseases are now a bigger threat to the world than communicable diseases including HIV.  

With the advent of the obesity epidemic, a new medical term term ‘Metabolic syndrome’ is more and more commonly heard about. What is metabolic syndrome? It is actually the name given to an overall chronic medical condition that results when any three of the following unhealthy factors combinedly occur in a person:

  1. Abdominal obesity
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Hyperlipidemia ( elevated levels of different forms of fat in the body)
  4. High blood sugar level
  5. Cardiovascular disease

When we look at the above constituents of metabolic syndrome, it becomes instantly clear to us that these are the same health problems that obesity also gives rise to. Conversely, obesity can also give rise to metabolic syndrome and this is what the fact is: increased prevalence of obesity over the past three decades has gotten metabolic syndrome established as an out pouch of obesity. It is quite clear that if just three of the above listed factors cluster in an individual, they can put significant adverse effects on overall health as well as quality of life of the affected individual.

While aggressive anti-obesity measures have helped slow down the wave in some parts of the world, in many others (especially developing countries) it has not, and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in children appears to be increasing.

Especially more worrying aspect of childhood obesity is that it does not end with childhood; rather and it tends to track into adulthood so that 85% of obese children become obese adults. Those who remain obese as adults have a significant risk for the development of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), hypertension, dyslipidemia, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) the cluster of disorders collectively constitute metabolic syndrome.

Talking about heart disease in children may sound strange to many. The fact is that although obesity-induced cardiovascular disease usually is not able to advance as far as to manifest itself in the form of actual cardiovascular events like heart attack or cardiac chest pain, it is not uncommon to detect structural evidence of atherogenesis  (i.e. thickening of blood vessel walls) in children. The very onset of this process of hardening of blood vessel walls is a red signal announcing the bad news that cardiovascular disease has taken its root in teenager’s body. Understandably, such a child is very likely to develop a full-fledged heart disease early in adult life 


Metabolic syndrome is much more common that is usually thought: 

  • Approximately 32% of the population in the U.S. has metabolic syndrome.
  • Around 25% of adults in Europe and Latin America are estimated to have the condition, and rates are rising in developing East Asian countries.
  • Within the US, Mexican Americans have the highest prevalence of metabolic syndrome.
  • The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases with age, and about 40% of people over 60 are affected

Sometimes (in about 5% cases) we can find metabolic syndrome normal body weight too. In such cases the body acquires the disease factors of the syndrome through ways other than obesity. 

Predisposing factors:

  • Eating a diet that's high in calories and low in nutrients and consuming lots of fast food and sweetened beverages can put kids at risk of obesity and, hence metabolic syndrome.
  • More screen time, playing video games for most of the day or sitting in front of the computer and not getting enough exercise, can all increase a child's chance of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
  • Unfortunately the risk of developing metabolic syndrome appears to be higher around puberty. That may be because the constituent factors of the syndrome namely the amount of body fat and blood pressure are the things that are also influenced by the sex hormones that are so abundantly produced in the body at that age.
  • Children with a family history of heart disease or diabetes are at greater risk for the syndrome. But fortunately enough, the preventive measures that one can take at will like keeping one self active, doing regular exercise , eating healthy, avoiding junk foods, and eating instead lot of fruits and vegetables can drastically decrease their chances of developing metabolic syndrome
  • Initially it was believed that metabolic syndrome comes in genes. However the fact that children around the world are getting heavier as well as developing this syndrome has made scientists change their minds. More likely, the environment plays a major role, in particular the typical Western diet, which has now been adopted globally due to palatability and price.


It may be noted here that if a child is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, it does not necessarily mean that he or she will develop heart disease or diabetes, but the chances are increased, especially if the risk factors are not eliminated. The best way to prevent in predisposed children is to through life style changes like eating healthy and being physically active.

If compliance with lifestyle changes is not good and the desired results are not achieved, a child may have to be prescribed medications to treat high blood pressure high cholesterol levels. 


Effects of metabolic syndrome:

Metabolic syndrome usually attacks silently and does not show any noticeable signs of disease in early stages and hence may pass unnoticed. Therefore the key is to remain cautious if any of your kids has become obese. Left unchecked, the syndrome is likely to have serious consequences that may include poor kidney function,Insulin resistanceand arteriosclerosis.

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