"Our results suggest that the risk for metabolic abnormalities related to obesity begin to manifest early in the natural history of weight gain," said researchers from the Bambino Gesu Children's Hospital in Italy.

The study involved more than 5,700 healthy children aged between two and six years, who visited pediatricians in Rome between 2011 and 2012. Of these children, about 600 had become overweight or obese within the first year.

The team found that nearly 40 percent of these children had at least one abnormal reading in their metabolism such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar or low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol.

About one-third of the children had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or a buildup of fat deposits in the liver.

Obese kids with such abnormal results also had a higher body mass index (BMI). Children with these risk factors may develop complications of obesity like diabetes, heart disease at an earlier age.

The findings appeared in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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