Review article
Porto Biomed. J. 2017; 2(4): 102-110 doi: (Published 17 March 2017)

Paediatric obesity and cardiovascular risk factors – A life course approach

Joana Araújo a,*, Elisabete Ramos a,b

EPIUnit – Instituto de Saúde Pública, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal
Departamento de Epidemiologia Clínica, Medicina Preditiva e Saúde Pública, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal
*Corresponding author:
Accepted 9 February 2017
Childhood obesity is increasingly prevalent worldwide, and Portugal presents one of the highest prevalence of obesity and overweight among the European countries. Since childhood obesity is a risk factor for obesity in adulthood, the high prevalence of overweight and obesity in paediatric age currently experienced is expected to lead to even higher prevalence of obesity in adulthood in future decades.

It is well known that the prenatal period and infancy are critical or sensitive periods for obesity development, but a growing body of evidence also suggests a relevant role of childhood and adolescence. The exposure to some factors during these periods or specific time frames within these periods may confer additional risk for obesity development.

Paediatric obesity is associated with cardiovascular risk factors both in the short or medium-term, but also in the long term, conferring additional risk for future adult health. However, it is not clear whether the relation between paediatric obesity and adult health is independent of adult adiposity. There is a moderate to high tracking of obesity from paediatric age into adulthood, which may partially explain the association with adult outcomes. Therefore, there has been increasing interest on life course frameworks to study the effect of the dynamics of adiposity across paediatric age on adult outcomes, namely on the cardiovascular disease risk. The use of this approach to study determinants and consequences of obesity raises methodological challenges to summarize the exposure to adiposity/obesity across the life span, being the identification of growth trajectories and the quantification of the duration of obesity among the most used methods. However, further investigation is still needed to explore the best methods to summarize exposure to adiposity and its variation across time.
Pediatric obesity; Cardiovascular risk factors; Life course
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