Background and objective: Obesity is an independent risk factor for chronic disease. The prevalence of obesity is especially high among Mexican American children. Peripheral blood monocytes are altered with obesity contributing to elevated systemic inflammation and increased risk of chronic disease. In addition, obesity alters the circulating levels of cytokines/chemokines that influence monocyte behavior. The study objective was to investigate alterations in blood monocytes and plasma cytokines/chemokine levels among healthy weight (standardized BMI [zBMI] ≤85th percentile; n = 66), overweight (zBMI 85th-95th percentile; n = 23), and obese (zBMI ≥95th percentile; n = 39) Mexican American children.
Methods: Blood samples were analyzed for total and subset monocyte concentration via flow cytometry. Serum monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), fractalkine, interleukin-8, and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) were measured by using a Milliplex MagPix assay. Serum cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins, triglycerides, and glucose were measured by using an enzymatic assay.
Results: Total monocyte concentration (P = .012), classic monocyte concentration (P = .045), MCP-1 (P = .015), and TNF-α (P = .002) were significantly greater in obese children compared with healthy weight children. Also, overweight and obese children had elevated triglycerides (P = .001) and reduced high-density lipoproteins (P = .033) compared with healthy weight children.
Conclusions: Childhood obesity alters monocytes and circulating chemokines, putting children at a greater risk of developing obesity-related chronic diseases in adulthood. Further characterization of early immune alterations in childhood obesity may provide additional clinical insight into the assessment of obesity-related disease risk.