November 11, 2008
Childhood Obesity Adds 30 Years To Vascular Age

Fat kids have the arteries of middle aged people.

NEW ORLEANS, La., Nov. 11, 2008 – The neck arteries of obese children and teens look more like those of 45-year-olds, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2008.

“There’s a saying that ‘you’re as old as your arteries,’ meaning that the state of your arteries is more important than your actual age in the evolution of heart disease and stroke,” said Geetha Raghuveer, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine and cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital. “We found that the state of the arteries in these children is more typical of a 45-year-old than of someone their own age.”

Researchers used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the inner walls of the neck (carotid) arteries that supply blood to the brain. Increasing carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT) indicates the fatty buildup of plaque within arteries feeding the heart muscle and the brain, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

We are not designed for the environment we have created for ourselves. Some of our responses to that environment are maladaptive. Historically calorie malnutrition was the biggest killer of our ancestors. So we have genes that make us like food, especially fatty sweet food. As a result some kids have vascular systems that are undergoing accelerated aging.

The children’s “vascular age” — the age at which the level of thickening would be normal for their gender and race — was about 30 years older than their actual age, Raghuveer said.

A high fat diet for pregnant rats predisposes the rat offspring for obesity. If this same phenomenon is at work in humans then childhood obesity will probably get worse and cause more adult obesity in a vicious cycle.

A study in rats shows that exposure to a high-fat diet during pregnancy produces permanent changes in the offspring's brain that lead to overeating and obesity early in life, according to new research by Rockefeller University scientists. This surprising finding, reported in the Nov. 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, provides a key step toward understanding mechanisms of fetal programming involving the production of new brain cells that may help explain the increased prevalence of childhood obesity during the last 30 years.

"We've shown that short-term exposure to a high-fat diet in utero produces permanent neurons in the fetal brain that later increase the appetite for fat," says senior author Sarah F. Leibowitz, who directs the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurobiology at Rockefeller. "This work provides the first evidence for a fetal program that links high levels of fats circulating in the mother's blood during pregnancy to the overeating and increased weight gain of offspring after weaning."

We need the ability to control human appetite and to activate cells to burn off excess calories.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 November 11 10:26 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Tim said at November 12, 2008 8:59 AM:

I'm very suspicious of this particular study. The link you provided is either missing a key detail or the Yahoo Article on the same study added a detail. Either way, I think this quote is important:

No one knows how thick a 10-year-old's artery should be, since they're not regularly checked for signs of heart disease, so researchers used tables for 45-year-olds, who often do get such exams.

Clearly if all you have is a table of 45-year-old artery thickness but no reference for the arterial thickness of a normal healthy 10 year old, you will find similarities between the data you collect and the reference material you use.

This smells of lazy science or very bad reporting. Either way, I want to see it done properly -- why did they publish and do press releases when all the reference material they have is for a COMPLETELY different demographic? Though it may not be likely, what if a healthy 10-year-old's arteries are thicker than a healthy 45-year-old's for some developmental reason? I'd like to see something that compared apples to apples.

MFraternity said at November 12, 2008 2:32 PM:

Sometimes, I wonder if society's concern about obesity is excessive. I mean, if obesity were allowed to continue growing unchecked (and clearly not everyone would become obese, since genetics plays a significant role), would medical care costs increase or decrease? If obesity really shortens the lifespan of people as much as some would suggest it does, perhaps they would decrease.

As Randall suggests in this post, the most effective way to deal with the problems posed by obesity is through rejuvenative technology. I maintain that, while exercise and diet can offset the risks of obesity to a point, adhering to a strict diet and exercise regimen have significant opportunity costs. Consider this entry:

Decreasing the influence of a genetic predisposition to obesity required significant amounts of exercise, which takes time that could be spent on more enjoyable activities.

I hypothesize that some people predisposed to obesity in certain ways will find themselves less productive when adhering to a low-fat diet in an attempt to maintain a weight considered by the medical community to be normal. I also think that people attempting to modify their weight through diet may find it significantly more difficult to focus. Consider this blog entry:

If thinking raises appetite to levels above the additional amount of calories that thinking requires, this suggests to me that fat people attempting to lose weight may find it difficult to be as creative and productive, because their bodies may react to a calorie deficit by decreasing the resources available for thinking.

As a result, the most effective way to deal with obesity is by coming to a rigorous understanding of metabolism (and of interhuman variation in metabolisms). Attempting to control obesity through exercise and diet stands to decrease civilization's productivity. I'd be interested in hearing other people's thoughts on the matter.

Robert M. said at November 12, 2008 3:05 PM:

On the rat study:

Figure 1 in the article shows the Balanced Diet (25% fat, 50 % carb, 25 % protein) rats ingesting roughly 50 kcal/day on day 30 and 102 kcal/day on day 70. The High-Fat Diet (50 % fat, 25 % carb, 25 % protein) ingested ~ 67 kcal/day on D30 and 122 kcal/day on D70. Tough to consider the two populations equivalent when one is eating roughly a quarter more per day. That's equivalent to me adding a Big Mac (~ 500 kcal) to my diet every day.

Mthson said at November 13, 2008 4:23 AM:

Mfraternity, there does seem to be a rich field of options for increasing fat loss. Engineering food with decreased calorie load but the same degree of satiety, or creating drugs that decrease hunger degree or hunger frequency would all accomplish this.

(When I'm on a weight-cutting diet, I address those issues by cramming in lots of low-calorie, high-volume vegetables, and drinking massive amounts of water between meals.)

Shannon Love said at November 13, 2008 7:55 AM:

If the brain uses body fat as an indicator of food abundance that would explain why fat seems to create fat even in offspring. Offspring could be born with hormonal or epigenetic "settings" that would activate behavioral and metabolic strategies evolved to capture calories in times of plenty.

Anonymous Coward said at November 13, 2008 10:16 AM:

It'd be nice if ETC-216 moved along a bit.

Randall Parker said at November 14, 2008 2:31 PM:

Mfraternity, Yes, feeling hunger or the desire for food all the time has got to be distracting. But for someone who is morbidly obese then bariatric surgery offers a solution - albeit at some initial risk.

We really need the ability to control hunger.

Todd29 said at May 27, 2009 5:13 AM:

Diets and diet aids do not help anyone. The only way to successfully lose weight and get the body that you want is by using the right information. This information can be found in the book Lose Weight Using Four Easy Steps which can be ordered through the website www, Everyone who has gotten a copy of this book is now healthier.

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