Monday, October 15, 2012

Markers to Help Predict Childhood Metabolic Syndrome

The metabolic syndrome is a set of  medical conditions that, when they occur together, can increase a person’s risk of serious illness. The conditions comprising the set of conditions vary depending on who is giving the definition. However, most definitions of metabolic syndrome include high blood  pressure, higher than normal cholesterol, and obesity. And as the number of conditions increase, a person has an increasing risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Further, there is some argument that metabolic syndrome is tied to a decline in mental capabilities.

A study consisting of 110 American teenagers concluded that teenagers who had metabolic syndrome “scored lower on math and spelling tests and [had] shorter attention spans than their metabolically healthier classmates. They also had smaller hippocampi — brain areas involved in learning and memory — according to brain imaging.”

Since metabolic syndrome can have negative consequences for an adolescent, it would be useful to know which adolescents will likely experience metabolic syndrome. Knowing which teenagers are likely to have to deal with metabolic syndrome would allow healthcare providers to recommend aggressive lifestyle changes that can lower the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Fortunately, research is moving in the right direction to meet these ends. Some results show that there are inflammatory markers that can predict metabolic syndrome in adolescents. Indeed, “Leptin, adiponectin and PAI-1 may be used as biomarkers to predict MetS among adolescents.”

Further, there may be other markers of metabolic syndrome. A Chinese study suggested that “Frequent snoring was associated with an elevated MetS risk independent of lifestyle factors, adiposity, inflammatory markers and adipokines in apparently healthy Chinese.”

Since metabolic syndrome is associated with lower cognitive abilities in adolescents, it is incumbent on us all to do what we can to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome – especially in adolescents. Lowering childhood obesity is one of the ways of lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome. And using metabolic syndrome markers may help healthcare providers better treat the condition.

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