A new study suggests anxiety may influence children’s metabolic health differently according to weight status.
Researchers discovered metabolic syndrome, a condition considered a precursor for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and premature mortality appears to be influenced by anxiety in overweight kids.
Metabolic syndrome includes three or more of the following factors: high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high plasma triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and high waist circumference.
After examining the relationship between anxiety and the metabolic syndrome in boys, researchers presented preliminary evidence that treatment strategies geared towards overweight youth should consider the affect of anxiety on metabolic syndrome.
Stress is a general term used to describe the body’s response to various stimuli and has been associated with poor metabolic health in adults; however, little is known about the relationship in children and adolescents.
Likewise, little is known about individual contributors to stress activation, such as anxiety, in youth.
Meanwhile, metabolic syndrome has become a prevalent condition in North America, affecting nearly a quarter of U.S. men and women.
“The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among U.S. adolescents has been grown steadily over the last decade,” said Megan E. Holmes, lead author of the study. “We wanted to find out if risk factors other than physical activity and diet accounted for the presence of the metabolic syndrome in youth.”
Since clinical manifestation of metabolic syndrome typically does not occur until later in life, the research team created a continuous metabolic syndrome score (MSS). To generate the MSS, the team summed the age-standardized residuals for blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, and indicator of blood glucose.
Researchers studied the physical activity of 37 boys, aged 8-18, using an accelerometer to track minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity accumulated daily. To quantify anxiety, the team used a survey designed to assess anxiety in children as a behavioral predisposition to perceive situations as stressful.
The correlation between anxiety and MSS was low in the total sample group; however, there was a moderate correlation between anxiety and MSS for the overweight subjects. In contrast, there was no association in the normal weight group.