Cigarette Smoke Linked to Serious Metabolic Disorder in Adolescents

A new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation links cigarette smoke with belly fat in teenagers thereby negating the popular conception held by many adolescents that smoking will help keep weight down.

The research on 12-19 year olds shows that exposure to cigarette smoke increased the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a serious disorder that elevates the chances of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
 In this study, the first to address the connection between cigarette smoke and metabolic syndrome in teenagers, the disorder was defined by the appearance of three of the five characteristics: a big waist; high blood pressure; high levels of blood fats called triglycerides; low levels of good cholesterol; and evidence of insulin resistance, in which the body cannot efficiently use insulin.

Researchers studied 2,273 teens who reported tobacco use in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey. They found that only 1% of teenagers who were not exposed to smoke developed the syndrome. With exposure to second hand smoke, the number jumped five-fold to 5% and in subjects who were smokers, 9% were affected with the disorder.

Significantly, when overweight adolescents were considered, there were substantially greater risks found for development of the disorder: 6% for those not exposed; 20% for those exposed to second hand smoke; and 24% for smokers.

While lead author, Dr. Michael Weitzman, executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics Center for Child Health Research in Rochester, New York, said it was not clear why exposure to cigarette smoke increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, what it does show "is that the percentages of kids who are at risk is vastly higher if they’re overweight and they’re exposed to secondhand smoke, down to very low levels."

The study also revealed that two thirds of non-smoking teens had measurable amounts of cotinine in their bodies. The presence of this byproduct of nicotine is evidence of exposure to second hand smoke.

Since the number of overweight teenagers has increased by 300% in the past twenty years, taking measures to help keep children healthy has become a top priority. Weitzman believes that as “we gear up to take on this epidemic of obesity, we cannot abandon protecting our children from secondhand smoke and smoking,"

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