Severely obese children in primary school could be putting their hearts under strain, a new study by Dutch scientists has revealed.

Writing in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, the research team at the VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, looked at data from 307 children aged between two and 12 and found that in two-thirds of cases the youngsters displayed at least one early warning symptom of heart disease, including high blood pressure.

More than half of the subject group had high blood pressure, while there were also cases of low "good cholesterol" and high blood sugar - which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

The researchers' definition of severe obesity started at a body mass index (BMI) of 20.5 for a two-year-old, 31 for a 12-year-old and 35 for an 18-year-old. They found only one child's obesity was attributable to medical rather than lifestyle factors.

Doireann Maddock, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Although it was a small study, the findings leave a bad taste in the mouth.

"It's a huge concern so many obese children were identified as already having at least one risk factor for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high blood glucose and problems with cholesterol levels.

"However, this is a problem that can be addressed by stopping young people becoming overweight and obese in the first place. Highlighting the importance of healthy eating and physical activity from an early age will help protect the heart health of future generations."

Story posted by Robert Mair on 24/07/2012