New research results show how obesity can harm children and youths

Dr. Susann Blüher received the Arthur-Schlossmann-Award of the Saxon-Thuringian Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and Pediatric Surgery.

Severe overweight in children and adolescents should been taken seriously by parents, since the associated health risks are greater than previously assumed, as Dr. Susann Blüher could repeatedly show in her research. For her outstanding scientific work she received the Arthur-Schlossmann-Award of the Saxon-Thuringian Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and Pediatric Surgery (April 2014).

The pediatrician and scientist at the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases of the University Medical Center Leipzig was able to show that the activity of the autonomous nervous system, which regulates e.g. inner organs, blood circulation and metabolism, is reduced in obese 7 to 18 year olds.

Dr. habil. Blüher warns that “the damage to the autonomous nervous system in obese children begins insidiously, even before the sugar metabolism is impaired or further complications occur. So these children are sicker than we previously thought.” The scientist also proved that abdominal obesity significantly increases the risk for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases already in adolescents.

The recent study shows that in obese 7 to 18 year olds also various blood values are altered critically. Increased inflammatory markers were measured in the blood (CRP, sTNFRII), which indicate subclinical inflammatory processes. These inflammation processes in obese adults are considered as chronic health burden that is associated with cardio-vascular diseases, type-2-diabetes, cancer and other diseases. The increased inflammatory values in young persons could be reduced back to normal in a special therapy program (of Leipzig health association KLAKS) which was conducted in cooperation with the health sports club Leipzig. Thanks to more exercise and dietary changes also the body mass index, waist circumference, body fat percentage, the higher values of the adipokine leptin and the inflammatory markers decreased in the children and youths. Another positive aspect was the significant increase of irisin, a transmitter of the muscle cells discovered only in 2012, which boosts the energy consumption and apparently has favorable effects on metabolism. Blüher and her colleagues were able to demonstrate for the first time that irisin already influences the metabolism of obese children.

"It is alarming that the harmful effects of obesity are already clearly evident in children and adolescents. However, the results showing that specific changes in lifestyle can improve these effects again is positive,” so the Arthur-Schlossmann-Award winner. So Blüher’s research provides good arguments to offer more of the much needed obesity treatment programs that are tailored to children and young people and also involve the parents.

The Saxon-Thuringian Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and Pediatric Surgery awards annually outstanding scientific achievements in the area of pediatrics and adolescent medicine in the German-speaking area with the Arthur--Schlossmann-Award. The prize is endowed with 1,500 Euros and is preferably given to young scientists and pediatricians in private practice.

„The prize is a very nice appreciation of our work in the recent years, and I would like to thank my team, colleagues from the University Hospital and the IFB, the cooperation partners and the resident pediatricians in and around Leipzig for their cooperation and support, that has made this work possible.”

Sources / Publications:
(1) Baum P, Petroff D, Classen J, Kiess W, Blüher S. Dysfunction of autonomic nervous system in childhood obesity: a cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54546.
(2) Blüher S, Molz E, Wiegand S, Otto KP, Sergeyev E, et al.; for the APV Initiative and the German Competence Net Obesity. Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Waist-to-Height-Ratio as Predictors of Cardiometabolic Risk in Childhood Obesity Depending on Pubertal Development. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Aug;98(8):3384-93.
(3) Blüher, S., Panagiotou, G., Petroff, D., Markert, J., Wagner, A., et al. Effects of a 1-year exercise and lifestyle intervention on irisin, adipokines, and inflammatory markers in obese children. Obesity 2014. doi: 10.1002/oby.20739
(4) Blüher S, Petroff D, Wagner A, Warich K, Gausche R, et al. The one year exercise and lifestyle intervention program KLAKS: Effects on anthropometric parameters, cardiometabolic risk factors and glycemic control in childhood obesity. Metabolism 2014 (63): 422-443.

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Keywords: IFB-research, obesity treatment, children & youths, associated diseases

Doris Gabel