Youthful obesity seems to have a far worse health impact on girls than on boys, according to new research from the University of California at Merced,

A survey of more than 1,700 between the ages of 13 and 17 revealed that obese boys were up to 3.5 times more at risk to develop elevated systolic blood pressure (SBP) than non-obese boys. However, for obese girls, they were up to nine times more likely to develop SBP than non-obese girls.

According to the American Physiological Society (APS), systolic blood pressure represents “the amount of force that blood exerts on blood vessel walls when the heart beats. High systolic measurements indicate risk for heart disease and stroke.”

Rudy M. Ortiz, PhD, associate professor of physiology and nutrition and lead researcher in the study, told reporters that obese girls will suffer significant long-term health problems

“Overall, there is a higher likelihood that those who present with both higher BMI [body mass index] and blood pressure will succumb to cardiovascular complications as adults. But the findings suggest that obese females may have a higher risk of developing these problems [than males].”

Regarding why obesity has a more pronounced impact on SBP in girls than in boys, Ortiz noted: “This may be where physical activity comes into play. We know, for example, that obese adolescent females participate in 50 to 60 percent less physical activity than boys in the population surveyed.”

This may also have important implications for other industrialized nations battling with teen obesity.

According to BBC, a spokesman for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said that one-third of young people in the U.K. are overweight or obese.

Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the BHF, told BBC: Here we have yet more evidence highlighting the danger that obesity poses to the health of our children. Based on this American study alone, it's too early to say for sure whether girls are more at risk than boys, but we do know girls tend to be less active than boys which could play a part.”

Stewart added: What is certain is that obesity is clearly putting both boys' and girls' health at risk. This is a very real problem for lots of families - about a third of young people in England are now overweight or obese. Healthy eating and physical activity during childhood is vital to ensure growth, development and a pattern of healthy habits which will carry through into adulthood.