Cardiovascular and metabolic consequences of obesity in children, unlike adults, are still not well understood nor have they been subject to extensive research in Africa. We aimed to identify the cardio-metabolic complications associated with childhood obesity at the early phase of the management of obese children in a reference center in Cameroon.
In this cross-sectional study conducted from November 2013 to September 2014 and based on World Health Organization (WHO) classification of Obesity (BMI > 3SD under 5 years and BMI > 2SD from 5 and above), we included children aged 3 to 17 years who were being followed up for obesity at the pediatric endocrinology unit of the Mother and Child Center of the Chantal BIYA Foundation in Yaounde, Cameroon. A control group composed of children with normal BMI coming for a routine check up or vaccination was matched to the obese subjects. In both groups, we measured waist circumference (WC), blood pressure, fasting lipid profile and fasting glycaemia. We also considered the presence or absence of acanthosis nigricans. Data were analyzed using STATA software version 11.0, and presented as means, medians, compared with parametric and non-parametric statistical tests.
We enrolled 38 obese children and 38 controls matched for sex and age. The majority of our participants were boys with a sex ratio of 1.24, and median age was 9.9 years. The median Z score of BMI was 3.21 in obese children. Approximately (n = 35) 90% of obese children (<6% in controls p < 0.001) presented with an abdominal obesity (WC/height ratio > 0.5) and 58% (n = 22) had acanthosis nigricans (5% (n = 2) in controls, p < 0.001). Type 2 diabetes mellitus was found in one participant, hypercholesterolemia in about 16% (n = 6) and high blood pressure in 25% (n = 8) of participants. Metabolic syndrome was present in 19% (n = 4) of obese children aged >10 years.
Obesity in children is associated with early onset metabolic disorders such as dyslipidemia, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The screening and management of these complications is therefore recommended.