Not only do severely obese adolescents carry excess weight, they also have much higher risk for heart disease than previously realized, according to findings published in March in JAMA Pediatrics.

Thomas Inge, MD, PhD.

Thomas Inge, MD, PhD

Of the 242 participants in the “Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery” (Teen-LABS) study, 95 percent had at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor. This includes 75 percent who had elevated blood pressure (including hypertension and pre-hypertension) and nearly 75 percent who were insulin resistant. Meanwhile, 50 percent had unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Centers participating in the Teen-LABS project include Cincinnati Children’s, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Thomas Inge, MD, PhD, Surgical Director, Surgical Weight Loss Program for Teens at Cincinnati Children’s, is the study’s chair. Marc Michalsky, MD, Surgical Director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s, was the lead author for the latest findings. In addition to Inge, three other Cincinnati Children’s and University of Cincinnati scientists contributed: Todd Jenkins, PhD, MPH; Elaine Urbina, MD, MS; and Ralph Buncher, ScD, MS.

Inge says the new findings add to research already demonstrating disturbing links between teen obesity and heart disease risk. Other studies have found signs of early atherosclerosis, poor pulmonary function, arterial stiffness, increased carotid artery thickness, left ventricular hypertrophy and elevated levels of inflammation.

“All of these other research findings tell us that parents and healthcare providers have to take note when kids are climbing the BMI (body mass index) ladder,” Inge says. “They should follow accepted guidelines for staged intervention, including consideration of surgery for severe pediatric obesity, and attempt to get ahead of the problem.”