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05-13-2020 | Obesity | News

Genetic study backs weight loss to negate long-term childhood obesity risks

Author: Eleanor McDermid


medwireNews: Findings from a genetic analysis support the notion that the harms of childhood obesity can be avoided by attaining a healthy BMI by adulthood.

And a separate study underlines how early the damaging effects begin to manifest, with adolescents who also had type 2 diabetes being at particular risk for accelerated vascular aging as they progressed to young adulthood.

The genetic study, published in The BMJ, used data from 453,169 people in the UK Biobank to identify 295 and 557 variants associated with body size in childhood and adulthood, respectively. A genetic score based on these variants had good predictive ability for body size in 5898 children and 2199 mothers in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Among the ALSPAC participants, each category increase in the genetic score for childhood body size was associated with a 2.32-fold increase in the odds for later developing type 2 diabetes, and a 1.49-fold increased risk in the odds for coronary artery disease.

However, the direct effect of childhood body size on these outcomes became nonsignificant in a multivariate analysis that accounted for adult body size. By contrast, adult body size continued to strongly influence the likelihood for type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease after accounting for other variables including childhood body size, increasing this by a respective 2.80- and 1.82-fold.

“These findings imply that observed associations between early life obesity and increased risk of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes are likely attributed to those with a large body size in childhood that persists into later life,” say Tom Richardson (University of Bristol, UK) and study co-authors.

“This suggests that a window of opportunity exists to mitigate the detrimental impact of early life body size on risk of these disease outcomes.”

In the second study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers followed up 151 adolescents with type 2 diabetes, 156 who were obese, and 141 who were of normal weight.

These study participants were approximately 17 years of age at baseline. Over the following 5 years, participants with obesity had a significantly greater increase in common carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT; a measure of early atherosclerosis) than those of a healthy weight, after accounting for baseline variables including age, blood pressure, and lipid levels.

But those with type 2 diabetes had significantly greater changes in common cIMT and also carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity and the augmentation index (two measures of arterial stiffness). In addition, their average changes for the augmentation index and bulb cIMT were significantly greater than those seen in the obese group.

Justin Ryder (University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, USA) and co-researchers identified several variables associated with risk for accelerated vascular aging, of which they highlight systolic blood pressure, which influenced progression of vascular aging in adolescents with diabetes and also in the obesity-only group.

“These data add further evidence underscoring the importance of efforts targeting prevention and treatment of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and elevated [blood pressure] among youth with a goal of delaying and/or preventing the progression of early vascular aging,” the team concludes.

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare. © 2020 Springer Healthcare part of the Springer Nature Group

BMJ 2020; 369: m1203
J Am Heart Assoc 2020; 9: e014891


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