Background: It is unknown at what age overweight starts to takes its toll on the vasculature. We studied the relation between body size measures and vascular characteristics in healthy 5-year-old children.
Methods: In 306 5-year-old children from an on-going birth cohort, body size characteristics were measured, including sonographic measurement of abdominal fat. Ultrasonographic measurements of the carotid artery were performed to obtain intima-media thickness (CIMT), arterial wall distensibility, and elastic modulus (EM).
Results: Increased body-weight was related to thicker CIMT (linear regression coefficient 2.25 μm/kg; P = 0.003), increased EM (2.73 kPa/kg; P = 0.01), and lower distensibility (-1.23 MPa(-1)/kg; P = 0.03). Similar relations were found for increased BMI with CIMT and EM. Increased intra-abdominal fat was related to thicker CIMT (9.19 μm/cm; P = 0.02), and increased waist circumference with thicker CIMT (2.17 μm/cm; P = 0.02), lower distensibility (-1.70 MPa(-1)/cm; P = 0.01), and higher EM (2.77 kPa/cm; P = 0.02), independent of BMI.
Conclusion: For the first time it is demonstrated that increased general body mass and particularly waist circumference and intra-abdominal fat are related to thicker and stiffer arteries already early in life.