Aim: Although obesity is the key characteristic of the metabolic syndrome, not all obese individuals develop the syndrome. Our aim was to identify characteristics of early growth that protect these individuals from the metabolic syndrome.
Methods: We examined 2003 subjects born in Helsinki, Finland, between 1934 and 1944. We focused on the 499 who were obese (BMI> or =30 kg/m(2)), 400 of whom had the metabolic syndrome according to IDF 2005 criteria. The subjects had a median of seven measurements of height and weight from birth to two years of age, and eight measurements from two to 11 years of age.
Results: Among obese individuals, those with the metabolic syndrome had a higher mean body mass index (BMI) and larger waist circumference than those who did not. The two groups were similar in body size at birth but, by two years of age, those who later developed the metabolic syndrome were lighter and thinner, and remained so up to age 11 years. The period when BMI changes were predictive of the syndrome was from birth to seven years. OR was 0.72 (95% CI: 0.57-0.92) per 1 S.D. increase in BMI from birth to two years and 0.63 (95% CI: 0.49-0.81) per 1 S.D. increase in BMI from two to seven years.
Conclusion: Among obese individuals, those who develop the metabolic syndrome were lighter and thinner from the age of two to 11 years compared with those who did not. These findings support the importance of early childhood growth in determining the metabolic consequences of obesity.