Relationship between overweight and obesity and cardiac dimensions and function in a paediatric population

Eur J Pediatr. 2022 May;181(5):1943-1949. doi: 10.1007/s00431-022-04384-0. Epub 2022 Jan 25.


Obesity in adults is associated with left ventricular hypertrophy, dilatation, and myocardial fibrosis, as well as heart failure and coronary heart disease. These associations have been studied to a lesser extent in the paediatric population. This study aims to investigate the relationship between obesity and cardiac structure and function in the paediatric population. In a southern Spanish village, we selected all inhabitants aged 6-17 years stratifying by age, gender, and educational centres. We performed a complete transthoracic echocardiogram evaluating all the cardiac morphological and functional parameters commonly measured in an echocardiographic study. There were 212 children and adolescents included. Of them, 48.1% were males. The mean age was 10.9 ± 3.0 years. A total of 106 (50%) were normal weight, 57 (26.9%) overweight, and 49 (23.1%) obese. Sex and age were similar in all three groups. Overweight and obesity were associated with larger left ventricular end-diastolic and end-systolic volumes (p < 0.0005), greater left ventricular mass (p < 0.0005), and smaller ejection fraction (p < 0.0005). They were also associated with larger atrial, aortic, and right ventricular size. Lateral and mean E/e' ratios were higher (p = 0.007 and p = 0.01 respectively). Body mass index was independently associated with all cavity size variables as well as left ventricular ejection fraction.

Conclusion: Childhood obesity is independently associated with larger heart chambers, greater left ventricle mass, and smaller left ventricle ejection fraction.

What is known: • Childhood obesity is related to the development of cardiovascular risk factors and is considered an epidemic of the twenty-first century; its prevalence is rising.

What is new: • Childhood overweight and obesity lead to changes in cardiac structure and function which, although not considered clinically pathological, are significant and a result of obesity, and which behave as unfavourable incipient alterations at an early age.

Keywords: Childhood obesity; Echocardiography; Left ventricular ejection fraction; Left ventricular mass.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Overweight* / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity* / complications
  • Pediatric Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Stroke Volume
  • Ventricular Function, Left