Preventing clots in obese kids

(Edmonton) A team of researchers from the University of Alberta is looking at ways of correcting the clotting system in obese children. If left uncorrected, this system imbalance leaves these children at a higher risk for cardiovascular problems such as strokes and blood clots.

Principal investigator Lesley Mitchell, a researcher in the Department of Pediatrics, said the team is using funding from a three-year, $275,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to see if changes to diet, exercise or lifestyle can correct this clotting system problem.

Researchers already know that obesity in children results in a system that makes bigger clots and takes up to eight times as long to dissolve a clot, effects Mitchell describes as “a double whammy” for these kids. Typically, the body takes slightly less than an hour to dissolve a clot in children and adults with a normal body weight. In children with obesity, who are prone to developing Type 2 diabetes, the body takes eight hours to dissolve clots.

“This tells us that the clotting system is wonky in obese children,” said Mitchell. “Our team is looking at ways to correct this imbalance, to improve the clotting breakdown system.”

Mitchell is working on this research with Geoff Ball and Sujata Persad, researchers in the Department of Pediatrics, Spencer Proctor, a researcher with the Alberta Diabetes Institute, and Yutaka Yasui, a researcher in the School of Public Health.

Ball is working with families whose children have weight-management issues to see if lifestyle changes are making a difference in the clotting system, while Proctor is working in the laboratory to see if changes to diet can fix the broken clotting system.

At this point, Mitchell says the research team believes the higher risk of blot clots and stroke may be associated with insulin resistance and an inflammatory response.

“Work like that of Mitchell and her colleagues is so valuable to children and their families who are struggling with obesity and its complications,” said Philip Sherman, scientific director of CIHR’s Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.

Childhood obesity is a major health concern in Canada. In 2005, the Canadian Community Health Survey reported 26 per cent of children and youth were overweight, while eight per cent were obese.

“Unfortunately, many of these children are afflicted with a variety of additional health complications that each deserve special research attention if we are to improve their overall health and their quality of life,” said Sherman.