Obese children are showing signs of heart disease that doctors only expect to see in middle-aged adults.
A study of overweight youngsters found that their blood vessels had stiffness typically seen in adults with cardiovascular disease.
Lead author Kevin Harris told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 that it was as if the aging process had been accelerated in their aortas.
"We were surprised to find that these obese children already have stiff blood vessels," said Harris, of B.C. Children`s Hospital, Canada.
"Aortic stiffness is an early indicator of cardiovascular disease in obese children," the Daily Mail quoted Harris as saying.
The aorta is the largest artery in the human body. It carries and distributes oxygen-rich blood to all the other arteries and normally acts as a buffer to the pumping action of the heart.
Increased stiffness of the aorta is typically associated with aging and is a strong predictor of future cardiac events and mortality in adults.
The average age of the children in the study was 13 years. Harris and colleagues evaluated 63 obese children and compared them with 55 normal weight controls. Blood pressure was taken, lipids evaluated, and body mass index was measured.
Harris said: "The normal aorta has elastic qualities that buffer the flow of blood. When that elasticity is lost, aortic stiffness results - a sign of developing cardiovascular disease."