Ethnicity and cardiovascular risk factors: evaluation of 40 921 normal-weight, overweight or obese children and adolescents living in Central Europe

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major global health problem and the leading cause of death in Europe. Risk factors such as obesity and hypertension that accelerate the development of CVD begin in childhood. Ethnicity is a known risk factor for CVD in adults. The aim of this study is to explore differences in the prevalence of hypertension and dyslipidemia among overweight/obese and normal-weight children/adolescents of three different ethnic origins living in Central Europe.


Prevalence of hypertension and dyslipidemia was calculated among obese/overweight children/ adolescents (n = 25 986; mean age 12.7 ± 3.0 years; range: 0-18 years; 46% males) documented in the German-Austrian-Swiss APV (Prospective Documentation of Overweight Children and Adolescents) registry and among normal-weight subjects (n = 14 935; mean age: 8.8 ± 5.1years; range 0-18 years; 51% males) from the population-based cross-sectional German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS) study. In both cohorts, subjects were categorized into three ethnic groups (Central European: Germany, Austria, Switzerland; Southeastern European: Turkish; Southern European: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Malta) based on the country of birth of both parents. Regression models were used to examine ethnic differences after adjustment for age and gender and body mass index (BMI) category.


Age-, gender- and BMI category-adjusted prevalence of hypertension were 38% and 39% for the ethnic minority groups, compared with 35% among German/Austrian/Swiss counterparts. Turkish ethnicity was significantly associated with hypertension (odds ratio (OR) 1.14; 95% confidence interval: 1.02-1.27; P = 0.0446). No significant ethnic differences were found in lipid levels. Prevalence of hypertension found among normal-weight subjects (Central European vs Southeastern vs Southern European: 6.8% vs 6.3% vs 7.2%) did not differ significantly.


Turkish obese/overweight children/adolescents showed a significantly higher prevalence of hypertension relative to their peers of Central European descent. No significant ethnic difference in the prevalence of hypertension was found among normal-weight children/adolescents. The high prevalence of hypertension among Turkish obese/overweight children/adolescents indicates the need for greater preventive and therapeutic efforts to reduce cardiovascular risk factors among vulnerable populations.

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