Girls' Tummy Fat Predicts Future Health Problems

JANUARY 01, 2006
Susan Farley

A larger waistline at early adolescence may mean an increased risk of diabetes or heart trouble in early adulthood, according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics. After tracking more than 1000 black and white girls from age 10 or 11 until age 18 or 19 in the Cincinnati, Ohio, and Washington, DC, areas, researchers found a 16% increased likelihood for developing metabolic syndrome among those girls with increased tummy fat, or central adiposity. This tummy fat is considered a more important predictor than high blood pressure or high cholesterol in childhood. Metabolic syndrome requires any 3 of the following 5 conditions: waistline of at least 40 inches in men and 34 inches in women; triglyceride levels of at least 150 mg/dL; high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels of 40 mg/dL or less in men and 50 mg/dL or less in women; blood pressure of at least 130/80 mm Hg; and glucose level of 110 mg/dL. These factors were measured in the girls when they were 10 or 11 years old and again when they were 18 or 19 years old. Only one black girl and one white girl had 3 of the 5 factors when measured at adolescence. At follow-up, however, 3.5% of the 570 black girls and 2.4% of 500 white girls met 3 of the 5 conditions. The study did not take into account high blood pressure, insulin, triglyceride, or HDL cholesterol levels in the increased risk of metabolic syndrome. In a separate study, girls with increased waistlines at adolescence, but normal waistlines at early adulthood, had no increase in metabolic syndrome.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.