A new systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies of the effect of child obesity intervention programs on blood pressure has found that regardless of whether such programs prevented obesity or not, many of them reduced blood pressure in children. It also found that the most effective programs in this regard promoted both healthy eating and physical activity. Even modest elevations in the blood pressure of adolescents, according to recent research, can pose cardiovascular problems later in life.

The study, “Effect of Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs on BP: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” was led by epidemiologist Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, of the University at Buffalo and conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, UB and other institutions. It was published online in the journal Circulation on Feb. 19, 2014 in advance of print publication.

Related: Task force statement on hypertension screening in children concerns pediatric nephrologists

Wang said, “Of the 28 obesity interventions with complete data that we analyzed, 13 (46%) had a favorable effect on both adiposity and BP and 11 interventions (39%) had a significant effect on the reduction of BP, even if they did not affect adiposity. “It is important to identify obesity intervention programs that can help children develop healthy lifestyles and keep BP at an optimal level, because these programs help them avoid many long-term health consequences.”

Wang’s research team, now based at UB, is working on projects in the United States and abroad funded by the National Institutes of Health that aim to assess the additional benefits of obesity prevention programs for children and to develop the most effective programs possible.

The team also is using transnational comparison studies to analyze factors suspected of contributing to the global obesity epidemic.

This study was built upon previous comprehensive research led by Wang at Hopkins and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which resulted in an 835-page full report published by AHRQ in June 2013.