How early childhood nutrition influences future cardiometabolic risks


The impact of nutrition in the first years of life on future cardiometabolic health has been generally understood, although gaps about certain populations remain. A session at the virtual Scientific Sessions for the American Diabetes Association sought to fill the gap for Native American children.

Research has shown that the conditions a person experiences at key periods of development can have a long-term impact on health. Nutrition in early life is one of those moments and can play a role in the development of cardiometabolic disease and growth patterns. At the 81st virtual Scientific Sessions for the American Diabetes Association, Maria J. Ramirez-Luzuriaga, MS, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Diabetes Epidemiology and Clinical Research Section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Division of Intramural Research in Phoenix Arizona, presented results of research into the roles on increased adiposity and low height-for-age on later metabolic risks in Native American children and teenagers.

Excessive weight in childhood has been tied to future metabolic risk as well as increased risk of persistent overweight and obesity that continues into late childhood and adolescence in previous research, but gaps in knowledge remain such as the links in populations at high risk of obesity and diabetes, such as Native American children and teenagers. The investigation examined children who were members of a Southwestern Native American community in Arizona. Well-child visits were used to ascertain height and weight in early childhood. A longitudinal study of diabetes and complications was used to find later childhood and adolescent outcomes through biennial assessment visits. Weight-for-height was an indirect measure of child adiposity and height-for-age was a marker of long-term undernutrition.

There were 701 participants included in the study and 1344 examinations. The investigators found that growth abnormalities had been established in early childhood with 30.1% of children being overweight by age 2 years and 17.7% having low height-for-age. A higher adiposity was found to have a significant link to greater cardiometabolic risk in childhood and adolescence, although adjustment with concurrent body mass index attenuated the links and made them no longer significant. As a result of these findings, the investigators believe that the influence of adiposity in early childhood can be ascribed to persistent overweight and obesity that continues into late childhood and adolescence. They also noted that undernutrition in early life could impact certain cardiometabolic risks such as triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, but the effects were more modest than seen with overnutrition.


1. Ramirez-Luzuriaga MJ. Increased adiposity and low height-for-age in early childhood is associated with later metabolic risk in american indian children and adolescents. American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions 2021; June 27, 2021; virtual. Accessed June 27, 2021.

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