Lead author Sarah Messiah, a research associate professor at the University of Miami, and Steven E. Lipshultz, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami Medical School, used health records of 3,644 children ages 3-6 from the 1999-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.
The children's waist circumferences were taken and body-mass index calculated based on height and weight.
The study, published in the journal Obesity, found that among 6-year-old black and Hispanic boys and all 5-year-old girls, those with high BMI and waist size tended to have higher inflammation levels. Among 3-year-old Hispanic girls and 5-year-old Hispanic boys, those with high BMI and waist size tended to have lower levels of high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol.
"There's clearly a link between weight and cardiovascular risk," Messiah told The Miami Herald. "When a doctor sees an overweight child at age 3, he has to talk to the parents about it. The negative health processes are not 20 years down the road --- they're already starting."