Background: Childhood obesity is linked to adverse cardiovascular outcomes in adulthood. This study aimed to assess the impact of childhood obesity on the vasculature and to investigate whether vascular alteration precedes arterial wall thickening in childhood. Methods: A total of 295 overweight (body mass index [BMI] 85th to 95th percentile, n = 30) and obese (BMI ≥ 95th percentile, n = 234) children aged 7–17 years and 31 normal-weight controls with similar age and gender were prospectively recruited. We assessed anthropometric data and laboratory findings, and measured the carotid intima–media thickness (IMT), carotid artery (CA) diameter, M-mode-derived arterial stiffness indices, and velocity vector imaging parameters, including the CA area, fractional area change, circumferential strain, and circumferential strain rate (SR). Results: The mean ± standard deviation age of the participants was 10.8 ± 2.1 years; 172 (58%) children were male. Regarding structural properties, there was no difference in the IMT between the three groups. The CA diameter was significantly increased in obese children, whereas the CA area showed a significant increase beginning in the overweight stage. Regarding functional properties, contrary to β stiffness and Young’s elastic modulus, which were not different between the three groups, the circumferential SR showed a significant decrease beginning in the overweight stage and was independently associated with BMI z-scores after adjusting for covariates. Conclusion: We have demonstrated that arterial stiffening and arterial enlargement precede arterial wall thickening, and that these vascular alterations begin at the overweight stage in middle childhood or early adolescence.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, grant number 2016-ER6405.
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