Metabolic syndrome to explode among European children

Related tags Metabolic syndrome Obesity

Rising obesity and overweight among children means Europe will face
an explosion in the metabolic syndrome, an expert warned on

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health conditions, including fat around the waistline, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and low HDL cholesterol, which taken together, significantly increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

An estimated 15 per cent of the European adult population already have this combination of obesity-related conditions, according to a study published last year.

But recent figures on childhood obesity suggest that Europe could follow the US trend for rising metabolic syndrome among the younger generation. In the US, incidence of metabolic syndrome has risen dramatically in the past 10 years and now affects up to 32 per cent of adults, an estimated 50 million people.

Recent studies suggest that 2 million US adolescents - one third of all overweight youngsters - were also affected, compared with just under 1 million estimated less than a decade earlier.

Speaking at a conference on the metabolic syndrome in Athens last weekend, Professor Philip James, chairman of the London-based International Obesity TaskForce, said that governments needed to take action to slow the rise in this condition in Europe.

"We must act swiftly with effective public health measures to ensure we do all we can to prevent the situation getting much worse. That means vigorously pursuing the WHO global and European strategies to achieve real improvements in diet and physical activity,"​ said Professor James.

According to the American Heart Association, "the safest, most effective and preferred way to reduce insulin resistance in overweight and obese people is weight loss and increased physical activity"​.

Epidemiological evidence suggests that consumption of wholegrains and following a typical Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of this condition. Other studies have investigated benefits from specific nutrients that can improve blood sugar control, such as chromium supplements and antioxidants.

Professor James said however that there is a need for an international consensus on how to define metabolic syndrome in both adults and children. Moreover recent studies in Europe reflect the need for more comprehensive research and surveillance to assess the full scale of the problem throughout Europe.

A recent survey found that in Greece alone, 2.3 million adults may be affected, likely a result of the drift away from healthy, traditional diets.

Another study of "apparently healthy" families in Northern France revealed a significant increase in metabolic syndrome over five years, with the children of affected adults showing early signs of cardiovascular risks.

Professor James was speaking at a satellite symposium to the annual scientific meeting of the European Society of Clinical Investigation.

In March the European Union launched a platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, highlighting the high levels of overweight and obesity among adults and children throughout the EU.

The briefing paper is available online​.

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