Diet/Exercise Program Greatly Improves Heart Health of Overweight Kids, New Study Finds
exercise can improve not only the cholesterol levels of children but
also a wide range of other biomarkers linked with heart disease, found
the results of a new study by UCLA researchers.
In the first
ever study to show such benefits, researchers found improvements in
insulin, triglycerides, blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers
like C-reactive protein and oxidative stress among youngsters, ages 9
to 15, participating in a two-week family program at the Pritikin
Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida.
almost all overweight, were at Pritikin with their parents to learn how
to make exercise an enjoyable part of their daily lives and eat
nutritiously (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and moderate
amounts of lean protein).
At the start
of the program, Dr. James Barnard and colleagues at UCLA Department of
Physiological Science took baseline blood tests of the children,
measuring eight different biomarkers associated with abnormalities that
lead to heart disease. Two weeks later, blood tests were taken again.
The scientists observed dramatic decreases in all biomarkers.
cholesterol fell on average 21 percent, LDL "bad" cholesterol decreased
25 percent, triglycerides (blood fats) plummeted 39 percent, and
insulin levels fell 30 percent. Key markers of inflammation in the
arteries, including C-reactive protein, oxidative stress, serum
adhesion molecules, and gelantinase activity, fell 41 percent, 90
percent, 53 percent, and 49 percent, respectively. Inflammation can
lead to the formation of plaque, hidden inside artery walls, which can
rupture without warning, causing a heart attack.
me most about this study were the relatively high levels of biomarkers
in people who were so young," commented Dr. Barnard. "A lot of parents
think, 'Yes, my kids are fat, but their arteries must still be nice and
clean, so they're a long way from serious health problems.' Well, our
research shows that's just not the case. What you see on the outside
very much mirrors what's going on inside."
and his team were prompted to conduct the study because of previous
research - autopsy studies - showing that plaque build-up in the
arteries, or atherosclerosis, begins as early as the first decade in
news, Barnard said, is that lifestyle changes can induce beneficial
results, and in a very short period of time, just two weeks. What's
more, the children didn't need to lose a lot of weight before reaping
remarkable rewards for their hearts.
"The biomarkers were dramatically reduced with just minimal weight loss," he notes.
hopeful message for both kids and adults," said Barnard. "Keep
exercising and eating nutritiously. Even if weight loss happens slowly,
getting healthy happens very quickly."
were presented at the American Heart Association's national conference
on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
Family Program, held every summer since 2002 at the Pritikin Longevity
Center, is lead by Pritikin's physicians, dietitians, and exercise
physiologists. "Our goal is teaching families how fun and rewarding
healthy living can be," said registered dietitian Jeffrey Novick.
include kid-friendly cooking workshops like "Awesome Fruit Smoothies,"
lively noncompetitive exercise classes such as "Cardio Blast" workouts,
field trips to mall food courts to learn how to make good choices,
tennis lessons, and afternoons playing at the beach.
For more information on the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, visit www.pritikin.com. For more information on the UCLA Department of Physiological Science, visit www.physci.ucla.edu.
Thursday, June 16, 2005