While a survey of obese teens reflected that they felt physically healthy, medical tests revealed otherwise.
Researchers at the Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland in California compared the health data of 33 teenagers with high body mass indexes (BMI) to normal-weight teens from the same region.
The obese teens said they felt fine. However, tests revealed that when compared to the control group, they had higher markers of inflammation, elevated levels of a hormone associated with heart disease, more oxidative stress and insulin resistance — which is a precursor to diabetes.
"The metabolic abnormalities suggest that the process of developing heart disease has already started in these children, making it critical for them to make definitive lifestyle and diet changes," said Ashutosh Lal, M.D., senior author of the study.
When looking at the participants' diets, researchers found that few of the teens — overweight or otherwise — had optimal eating habits. However, the obese youth tended to consume less dairy and fruit than their normal-weight counterparts. This resulted in lower levels of potassium and vitamins C, D and A.
Authors of the study said that obese teens should not necessarily focus on eating less, but incorporate more low-fat dairy and fresh produce into their diets.