Elevated BMI and waist circumference significantly predicted higher C-reactive protein levels in white girls and in black and Hispanic boys.
High BMI and waist circumference predicted lower HDL cholesterol in Hispanic boys and girls, while a high BMI was linked to elevated total cholesterol in black boys.
Researchers said the differences could have to do with the children's diets, genetics or other lifestyle factors.
But researchers stressed that the key message of the study was that all children should have their BMI and waist circumference monitored, and if the numbers are found to be creeping up, doctors and parents should intervene.
"It's frightening," Messiah said. "We are in uncharted territory. We have never had this number of children this heavy so young. We don't know the cumulative effect of all of these years of having all of your organs -- heart, kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas -- under stress from being overweight."
While worrisome, the findings are not surprising, said Dr. Ronald Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute. In adults, the relationship between obesity and elevated LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein has been well-established.
"It reinforces how serious it is and how much of an effort it's going to take to reduce the risk by going back to early childhood," Krauss said.
This summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended children as young as 2 start having their cholesterol levels screened if they have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, and that screening should start no later than 10.
They also recommended, controversially, that children as young as 8 be given cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Both Messiah and Krauss are opposed to children aged 3 to 6 taking statins; the focus should instead be on bet
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