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TUESDAY, Feb. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight children exposed to high levels of certain household chemicals may be more likely to develop certain risk factors linked to heart disease and diabetes, according to new research.
Scientists found that perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), used in stain and water repellants for carpets, furniture and textiles, can interfere with the endocrine system of overweight children. These kids, the study showed, are more likely to develop early warning signs of metabolic syndrome, a condition that involves a group of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
"Our results suggest that these chemicals, which linger in the environment for years, could represent an important public health hazard that merits further study," said study co-author Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann, of the University of Southern Denmark.
"Overweight children who were exposed to higher levels of PFCs tended to have higher concentrations of insulin and triglycerides in their blood, and these metabolic changes could signal the beginnings of the metabolic syndrome," Timmermann added.
The study involved about 500 third-grade children. The researchers measured each child's waist and body mass index (a calculation of body fat based on height and weight). They also examined blood samples taken from the kids to assess their exposure to PFCs as well as their insulin, triglyceride (a blood fat) and blood sugar levels.
The study, published online Feb. 25 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that overweight children who had higher levels of certain PFCs in their blood were more likely to also have higher levels of insulin and triglycerides. The researchers noted the same was not true for children who were a normal weight.
"Although the two types of PFCs we investigated are being phased out due to health concerns, the use of other types of PFCs is on the rise," Timmermann noted in a news release from the Endocrine Society. "There is an ongoing need to determine how the entire class of chemicals is affecting children's health."
While the study found an association between certain PFC levels in overweight kids and higher levels of insulin and triglycerides, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has more on PFCs.