Dr. Beth Abramson, spokeswoman of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, says to see blood vessel stiffening in obese children -- which is normally seen in middle-age adults -- is extremely disturbing.
Dr. Kevin Harris of British Columbia Children's Hospital in Vancouver says aortic stiffness is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease in obese children.
"We were surprised to find that these obese children already have stiff blood vessels," Harris says in a statement. "The normal aorta has elastic qualities that buffer the flow of blood. When that elasticity is lost, aortic stiffness results -- a sign of developing cardiovascular disease. Aortic stiffness is associated with cardiovascular events and early death."
Harris and colleagues evaluated 63 obese children and compared them with 55 normal-weight children as controls. Blood lipid levels and cholesterol levels were normal in the obese children, but the Pulse Wave Velocity -- how fast blood flows and one of the measures used to assess aortic stiffness -- was abnormal.
"The systolic blood pressure was only marginally higher in these obese children," Harris says.
The findings were presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2 in Montreal.