The invincibility of youth is meeting a new reality. Obese teenagers are in dire health straits with the handwriting clearly on the wall. I wish there were positive data to report about this trend of obesity in America, maybe even a silver lining of some sort. However, weekly studies point in the same alarming direction for obese teenagers. The path to very early disease is their likely future.
One new study measured the waist circumference of 13-year-olds in 1999. Nine years later it was clear that those with the fattest stomachs were more likely to have full blown metabolic syndrome, taking less than a decade to go from a condition of metabolic stress into a disease state by the ripe old age of 22.
We now know that obesity is like punching the thyroid gland in the nose, further complicating metabolic problems. As the thyroid malfunctions then thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels begin to rise. This leads to a problem called subclinical hypothyroidism, which is now rampant in overweight children. Another new study shows that the hearts of children with obesity-induced subclinical hypothyroidism have impaired cardiac function – already visible as teenagers! I previously reported on another study indicating obese teenagers have structural and functional damage to their hearts prior to the onset of clear issues such as high blood pressure. I’ve also pointed out that hardening of the arteries is already underway in obese 8 – 11-year-olds. And some researchers show that obesity-related inflammatory changes leading to disease are already in motion by age 3.