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What Are the Signs of Metabolic Syndrome in Children?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Metabolic syndrome is a collection of medical issues that arise from unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices. These issues include obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and can affect children as well as adults. Although the signs of metabolic syndrome in adults are well identified, diagnosis in children is distinct from adults, as kids have different body types and are still growing. Various health authorities have established guidelines for identifying metabolic syndrome in children, and doctors generally do not all follow one specific set. Typically, though, higher than normal waist measurements, a high body mass index (BMI) and various blood tests are included in the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome in children.

A high body weight is an integral component of metabolic syndrome in children. Basically, metabolic syndrome is a collection of diseases that arise because a person eats unhealthy, high calorie food and then does not engage in enough exercise to burn off the excess energy. The spare energy, which is often in the form of sugars or fats, generally makes the person fat and alters their internal chemistry.

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Body mass index is a measurement of how much weight a person is carrying relative to their height and gender. Often, a health authority who draws up guidelines to help diagnose metabolic syndrome in children specifies that if a child has a BMI in the highest percentile grouping, such as in the 90th percentile or over, then that child is at risk of metabolic syndrome. For example, in a group of 100 children, the ten kids with the highest BMI may be at risk of metabolic syndrome. Waist measurements for kids in the highest percentiles may also be used as an indicator of potential health problems.

Once food enters the body as energy and nutrients, blood transports it through the body. For this reason, the blood system is one of the most affected by unhealthy eating, and doctors can spot signs of metabolic syndrome in children in the concentrations of different substances in the blood. Fats in the form of triglycerides, or substances that are made from fats, like cholesterol, are measurable in blood. Abnormally high levels of these substances indicate that a child is at risk of metabolic syndrome.

Glucose, which is sugar, is the most commonly used form of energy in the body, and is produced from the breakdown of many foods. Abnormal levels of glucose in the bloodstream either indicate that a child eats too much food that is then broken down to glucose, or it indicates that the child's body is not processing glucose properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps direct glucose metabolism, and in Type 2 diabetes insulin levels are abnormal, generally due to a bad diet. Unhealthy levels of any of these substances in a child's bloodstream can help a doctor diagnose the presence of metabolic syndrome.

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