Risk Of 'Syndrome X' In Kids

"Syndrome X" or metabolic syndrome -- a condition which results from obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and family history of diabetes – is not only a serious problem for adults, but also a growing number of children.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that revealed "the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome increased with the severity of obesity and reached 50 percent in severely obese youngsters."

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay says when a person is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome they are at greater risk of Type II Diabetes and heart disease.

Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine studied 439 obese children and adolescents (ranging from age 4 to 20 years old). They were all generally healthy -- meaning they had weight problems but they were not diagnosed with diabetes and were not being treated for high blood pressure.

After three days on a high-carb diet with little exercise, researchers analyzed their blood for lipid, insulin, glucose and adiponectin levels. They also recorded their body mass index, and blood pressure.

The results showed the percentage of subjects with impaired glucose tolerance increased directly with the severity of obesity.

Overall, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome was 38.7 percent in moderately obese subjects and 49.7 percent in severely obese subjects. Children, who were not categorized as obese or overweight, did not have the metabolic syndrome, which suggests the prevalence for metabolic syndrome increases directly with the degree of obesity.

Senay says the risk associated with Syndrome X is very high in children, and they could have heart attacks and suffer from heart disease in their 20s – an age when they should be very healthy. And these subjects would be severely at risk for heart attacks in their 30s and 40s.

The condition, however, can be reversed.

The study began in 1999 and researchers did follow up with the children either one to two years later and found that most of the subjects who met the criteria for metabolic syndrome in the initial evaluation, met the criteria for metabolic syndrome during the follow-up evaluation.

The few who did not show prevalence for metabolic syndrome during the follow-up had a lower Body Mass Index to begin with. They had also gained less weight and had decreased their insulin resistance.

About 16 of 43 children who initially did not test positive for a prevalence of metabolic syndrome, tested positive for the syndrome during the follow-up. Senay says it's no surprise because these kids had gained a significant amount of weight.

Eight of the children with metabolic syndrome during the initial phase of the study, developed full-blown Type II Diabetes and this is unusual, because in adults it can take several years. These obese adolescents developed diabetes much faster.

From these results, researchers concluded that metabolic syndrome is far more common among children and adolescents than previously reported and that its prevalence increases with the degree of obesity.

Senay says the following are risk factors that may indicate a child suffers from metabolic syndrome:

  • Obesity
  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes in the Family

    Senay says parents can help their kids against metabolic syndrome with weight modification.

    According to pediatric fitness specialist Dr. Eric Small, kids shouldn't skip meals or avoid protein or fats. He warns that the popular adult diets may be inappropriate for children because parents may risk, "stunting their growth if they're not getting in their calories." The child may also show signs of dehydration, sleepiness and personality changes.

    If you're a concerned parent and you're wondering where to start with your overweight or obese child, talk to your pediatrician about programs in your area.

    Also, studies show that two of the biggest culprits when it comes to causes of obesity in kids are too much television and too much soda.