Embargo: 23 September 2016 at 09:00 local time (14:00 CEST)
Fortaleza, Brazil 23 September 2016: Obesity has trebled in schoolchildren in Brazil over the past 30 years, reveals research presented at the Brazilian Congress of Cardiology. The study in more than 5000 children in Rio de Janeiro found obesity rose from 6% in 1986 to 18% in 2016.
The annual congress of the Brazilian Society of Cardiology (SBC) is held in Fortaleza from 23 to 25 September 2016. Experts from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) will present a special programme.1
“Our findings are worrying, given that adults who were obese in childhood and adolescence are the most common victims of early death from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke,” said last author Dr Andréa Araújo Brandão, a cardiologist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and abstract coordinator for the congress.
The investigators evaluated the rates of obesity, overweight and high blood pressure in 3897 children aged 10 to 15 years attending schools in Rio de Janeiro in 1986 and 1987. They returned to the same schools 30 years later and conducted the same measurements in 1722 children of the same age.
They found that the prevalence of overweight and obesity combined nearly doubled over the 30 year period, from 17% to 32%. There was a greater increase in obesity (6% versus 18%) compared to overweight (11% versus 14%) after 30 years.
The prevalence of high blood pressure declined between the two periods (11% versus 8%). In 2016, central obesity was present in 46% of the schoolchildren and 60% did not take part in any physical activity.
“Unhealthy lifestyles are becoming more common in schoolchildren in Brazil, with increased intake of processed food that is high in calories and sugar,” said Dr Brandão. “Meals and snacks are often eaten away from home, physical activity is low and leisure time is often sedentary.”
“We found a lower prevalence of blood pressure than 30 years ago which could be because we changed from the auscultatory to the oscilometric method of measurement,” she added. “It is worth noting that more children in 2016 had isolated diastolic hypertension and combined systolic/diastolic hypertension, which carry a poor prognosis.”
“The high rates of obesity in children in Brazil today puts them at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, low self esteem and even depression,” said Dr Brandão.
“There is no doubt that we need to encourage healthier habits among these young people,” she continued. “It is of utmost importance to adopt public policies to regulate food in school canteens and impose restrictions on food advertising. Encouraging physical activity at schools and at home, and the reduction of sedentary leisure time, are also important measures.”
Dr Brandão concluded: “Family involvement is critical and fundamental to successfully improving children’s lifestyle habits. Paediatricians are key players in the early diagnosis of excess weight and blood pressure changes. Starting at three years of age, every child should have their blood pressure measured each year.”
Professor Fausto Pinto, ESC immediate past-president and course director of the ESC programme in Brazil, said:
“Prevention of heart disease starts at a young age.2 Children should be encouraged to be physically active and avoid prolonged periods of sitting. Legislation is needed to restrict marketing of unhealthy foods to children and parents should avoid smoking when children are present.”