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Anxiety In Overweight Children Compounds Risk Factors

by User Not Found | Aug 01, 2011
Study suggests anxiety affects metabolic syndrome

INDIANAPOLIS – Anxiety may influence children’s metabolic health differently according to weight status, says a study presented today in Indianapolis at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine  (ACSM). After examining the relationship between anxiety and the metabolic syndrome in boys, researchers presented preliminary evidence that treatment strategies geared towards overweight youth should consider the affect of anxiety on metabolic syndrome.

Stress is a general term used to describe the body’s response to various stimuli and has been associated with poor metabolic health in adults; however, little is known about the relationship in children and adolescents. Likewise, little is known about individual contributors to stress activation, such as anxiety, in youth.

Meanwhile, metabolic syndrome has become a prevalent condition in North America, affecting nearly a quarter of  U.S. men and women. An individual with the metabolic syndrome has three or more of the following factors: high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high plasma triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and high waist circumference. This condition is considered a precursor for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and premature mortality.

“The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among  U.S. adolescents has been grown steadily over the last decade,” said Megan E. Holmes, lead author of the study. “We wanted to find out if risk factors other than physical activity and diet accounted for the presence of the metabolic syndrome in youth.”

Since clinical manifestation of metabolic syndrome typically does not occur until later in life, the research team created a continuous metabolic syndrome score (MSS). To generate the MSS, the team summed the age-standardized residuals for blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, and indicator of blood glucose.

Researchers studied the physical activity of 37 boys, aged 8-18, using an accelerometer to track minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity accumulated daily. To quantify anxiety, the team used a survey designed to assess anxiety in children as a behavioral predisposition to perceive situations as stressful. The correlation between anxiety and MSS was low in the total sample group; however, there was a moderate correlation between anxiety and MSS for the overweight subjects. In contrast, there was no association in the normal weight group.


The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.  More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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