Cardiology in the Young

Original Articles

Progenitor cell number is correlated to physical performance in obese children and young adolescents

Christiane Arnolda1 c1, Daniel Wentaa2, Jochen Müller-Ehmsena2, Narayanswami Sreerama2 and Christine Grafa1 c1

a1 Institute of Movement and Neurosciences, German Sport University Cologne, 50933 Cologne, Germany

a2 Department of Internal Medicine III, University of Cologne, 50937 Cologne, Germany


Juvenile obesity is associated with cardiovascular risk factors. In adults, cardiovascular risk factors and obesity are associated with a decreased number of endothelial progenitor cells. Higher physical fitness correlates with a lower cardiovascular morbidity and increased endothelial progenitor cells.

Methods CD34 positive, KDR/CD34, CD133/CD34, and CD117/CD34 double positive progenitor cells were measured in 24 obese children and adolescents – 15 female; age: 12.5 plus or minus 2.1 years, body mass index standard deviation score: 2.5 plus or minus 0.5, waist: 88.6 plus or minus 15.0 centimetre, body fat: 24.6 plus or minus 2.2% – participating in the CHILT III programme. Percentage body fat was assessed by skinfold thickness. Peak of oxygen uptake and the respiratory quotient were determined by spiroergometry.

Results No gender differences were found. CD34 positive and CD117 positive/CD34 positive cells correlated with maximum relative watt performance, r is equal to 0.429 and 0.462; p-value less than 0.05. The peak of oxygen uptake correlated with CD34 positive and CD133 positive/CD34 positive cells, r is equal to 0.458 and 0.456; p-value less than 0.05, while no correlations were found between parameters of weight, body composition, and respiratory quotient with progenitor cells.

Conclusions A higher physical fitness, but not less body fat or body mass index is associated with a higher number of endothelial progenitor cells. These results support the hypothesis that physical fitness and cardiovascular risk in high-risk populations are inversely related. Further research is warranted to clarify the strength of this association and longitudinal effects of a comprehensive obesity programme.

(Received May 19 2009)

(Accepted November 30 2009)

(Online publication May 17 2010)


c1 Correspondence to: C. Arnold (academic diploma degree in sports science), Dr Christine Graf, Institute of Motor Control and Movement Technique, German Sport University Cologne, Am Sportpark Müngersdorf 6, 50933 Cologne, Germany. Tel: (+49) 221 4982 5290; Fax: (+49) 221 49828280; E-mails: and