Abdominal fat and blood pressure in healthy young children

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High blood pressure (BP) and obesity are well known risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Both risk factors exert an influence early in life, and BP is related to body weight. However, the effect of abdominal fat accumulation on BP in childhood is still unclear. We aimed to determine the relation between visceral adipose tissue (VAT), subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) and BP in young children.


In 862 healthy 5-year-old children of the Wheezing-Illnesses-Study-Leidsche-Rijn birth cohort, VAT and SAT were measured ultrasonographically. SBP and DBP were measured in sitting and supine postures using a semi-automatic oscillometric device. General linear regression analyses were performed to assess associations between abdominal fat and BP adjusted for confounders. Further explanatory models were run to explore if associations with localized abdominal fat distributions were independent of measures of overall body adiposity.


Each millimeter increase in VAT was related to 0.17 mmHg (95% confidence interval: 0.08; 0.3) and 0.11 mmHg (0.02; 0.2) higher sitting SBP and DBP, respectively. These associations remained after additional adjustment for BMI (SBP: 0.14 mmHg/mm, 0.05; 0.2; DBP: 0.11 mmHg/mm, 0.02; 0.2), waist circumference (SBP: 0.16 mmHg/mm, 0.06; 0.3; DBP: 0.12 mmHg/mm, 0.03; 0.2) or early life growth (SBP: 0.16 mmHg/mm, 0.07; 0.3; DBP: 0.115 mmHg/mm, 0.03; 0.2). Associations between VAT and supine SBP and DBP were, respectively, 0.14 mmHg/mm (0.06; 0.2) and 0.08 mmHg/mm (0.004; 0.2), which remained after further explanatory analyses. SAT was not associated to SBP or DBP.


Independent of body size, children with more VAT have higher BP, especially when measured in sitting posture.

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