UCLA Study Shows Diet/Exercise Program Greatly Improves Heart Health of Overweight Kids

Apr 29, 2005, 01:00 ET from Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa

    WASHINGTON, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- In a study presented at this week's
 American Heart Association's national conference on Cardiovascular Disease
 Epidemiology and Prevention, UCLA researchers reported that diet and exercise
 can improve not only the cholesterol levels of children but also a wide range
 of other biomarkers linked with heart disease.  In the first ever study to
 show such benefits, researchers found improvements in insulin, triglycerides,
 blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and
 oxidative stress among youngsters, ages 9 to 15, participating in a two-week
 family program at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida.
     The kids, almost all overweight, were at Pritikin with their parents to
 learn how to make exercise an enjoyable part of their daily lives and eat
 nutritiously (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts
 of lean protein).
     At the start of the program, Dr. James Barnard and colleagues at UCLA
 Department of Physiological Science took baseline blood tests of the children,
 measuring eight different biomarkers associated with abnormalities that lead
 to heart disease.  Two weeks later, blood tests were taken again.  The
 scientists observed dramatic decreases in all biomarkers.
     Total cholesterol fell on average 21 percent, LDL "bad" cholesterol
 decreased 25 percent, triglycerides (blood fats) plummeted 39 percent, and
 insulin levels fell 30 percent.  Key markers of inflammation in the arteries,
 including C-reactive protein, oxidative stress, serum adhesion molecules, and
 gelantinase activity, fell 41 percent, 90 percent, 53 percent, and 49 percent,
 respectively.  Inflammation can lead to the formation of plaque, hidden inside
 artery walls, which can rupture without warning, causing a heart attack.
     "What struck me most about this study were the relatively high levels of
 biomarkers in people who were so young," commented Dr. Barnard.  "A lot of
 parents think, 'Yes, my kids are fat, but their arteries must still be nice
 and clean, so they're a long way from serious health problems.'  Well, our
 research shows that's just not the case.  What you see on the outside very
 much mirrors what's going on inside."
     Dr. Barnard and his team were prompted to conduct the study because of
 previous research -- autopsy studies -- showing that plaque build-up in the
 arteries, or atherosclerosis, begins as early as the first decade in life.
 The study was funded by the Nathan Pritikin Research Foundation.
     The good news, emphasizes Barnard, is that lifestyle changes can induce
 beneficial results, and in a very short period of time, just two weeks.
 What's more, the children didn't need to lose a lot of weight before reaping
 remarkable rewards for their hearts.  "The biomarkers were dramatically
 reduced with just minimal weight loss," he notes.
     "It's a hopeful message for both kids and adults," says Barnard.  "Keep
 exercising and eating nutritiously.  Even if weight loss happens slowly,
 getting healthy happens very quickly."
     The Pritikin Family Program, held every summer since 2002 at the Pritikin
 Longevity Center, is led by Pritikin's physicians, dietitians, and exercise
 physiologists.  "Our goal is teaching families how fun and rewarding healthy
 living can be," says registered dietitian Jeffrey Novick.  Activities include
 kid-friendly cooking workshops like "Awesome Fruit Smoothies," lively
 noncompetitive exercise classes such as "Cardio Blast" workouts, field trips
 to mall food courts to learn how to make good choices, tennis lessons, and
 afternoons playing at the beach.
     About the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa:
     The Pritikin Longevity Center is located at Turnberry Isle in Aventura,
 Florida.  No other diet-and-exercise approach has been more closely studied by
 the scientific community or has achieved such phenomenal success.  Over the
 past three decades, more than 100 studies have been published in key medical
 publications like the New England Journal of Medicine and the Archives of
 Internal Medicine.  These studies have documented the Pritikin Program's
 achievements in helping people overcome heart disease, high blood pressure,
 elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
 Scientists from Harvard Medical School, MIT, Stanford University, UCLA, and
 many other research institutions have lauded Pritikin's effectiveness in
 improving people's health and lives.

SOURCE Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa