In the study, led by MCRI's Alanna Hanvey, researchers were encouraged because they didn't find a link between long-term weight issues and permanent structural damage by age 14. This means that the mid-teen years may be a tipping point for when damage to cardiovascular health starts to occur. So if a child is overweight but loses weight and adopts healthy eating and exercise habits prior to age 14, the results of the study suggest that there is a good chance that they won't have done any irreversible damage to their heart.
In adulthood, body mass index (BMI) is strongly linked to cardiovascular health. The the aim of this study was to find out whether this link also exists in children.
The study, published in Childhood Obesity, grouped teens with similar BMI from birth to the mid-teens, and assessed if their BMI over time was linked with cardiovascular health.
"We found that teenagers that were consistently overweight between birth and 14 years old did not have big differences in cardiovascular structure compared to teenagers who were normal weight between the same ages" said Alanna.
"Since we know that by adulthood the two are strongly linked, we propose that this link must develop after the mid-teens before adulthood."
Levels of overweight and obesity in adolescents has plateaued at a high level. And while the cost of health consequences in our next generation of adults is unknown, Alanna says it's likely to be substantial.
"This research can provide a better understanding of how differences in BMI link to cardiovascular risk, which could lead to opportunities to identify people at the highest risk of disease, and intervene before permanent damage occurs."