The blood vessels of children who are obese show changes that can lead to heart disease later in life. Now, new research from The Chinese University of Hong Kong shows that these changes can largely be reversed with diet and exercise.
The findings are based on a study of 82 overweight children who were put on a low-fat diet alone or in combination with a structured exercise program for six weeks. After this period, all 41 kids in the diet-only group and 22 of 41 in the diet-plus-exercise group continued their assigned regimens for one year.
During the initial 6 weeks, both groups saw a drop in cholesterol levels and improved blood vessel function. The effect on function was more pronounced with diet plus exercise than with diet alone, according to the report in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.
At 1-year follow-up, further improvements in blood vessel function were seen in kids who continued the exercise program. Moreover, continued exercise had beneficial effects on blood vessel wall thickening and body fat content. Less dramatic benefits were seen in children who remained on the diet only.
Experts commented that this study "provides conclusive evidence that aggressive lifestyle modification by diet and physical exercise training are needed in overweight children" to correct blood vessel dysfunction, a risk factor for heart disease.
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