Obese children as young as eight are showing the early signs of heart disease, experts have warned.
Scans of obese youngsters revealed a glimpse of significant heart disease and heart muscle abnormalities, according to new research.
Comparing 20 obese children with 20 of their normal-weight peers, scientists discovered obesity was linked to 27 per cent more muscle mass in the left ventricle of the heart, and 12 per cent thicker heart muscles - both signs of heart disease.
Forty per cent of the obese children were deemed to be at 'high-risk' because of problems with the thickened muscle in the heart, which was linked with impaired pumping ability.
None of the children showed physical symptoms of heart disease.
But the researchers warned heart problems in childhood may lead to more complicated health conditions in adulthood, as well as early death.
Study lead author, Dr Linyuan Jing, of Geisinger Health System in the US, said: “Parents should be highly motivated to help their children maintain a healthy weight.”
“Ultimately, we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible; however, it is possible that there could be permanent damage.”
“This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle.”
Some of the obese children had conditions associated with excess weight, including asthma, high blood pressure and depression.