Weight gain since childhood imposes high diabetes risk
medwireNews: The risk for type 2 diabetes in overweight people is higher in those who gained weight after the age of 10 years than in those who were already overweight at that time, researchers report.
The findings, based on data from 371, 903 Caucasian people in the UK Biobank, suggest that there is “definitely something about moving up broad BMI centiles that warrants further testing as an additional risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” said study presenter Jess Tyrrell (University of Exeter, UK) at the 54th EASD Annual Meeting in Berlin, Germany.
The research team divided the study cohort according to whether their adult BMI was between 25 and 30 kg/m2 or of 30 kg/m2 or higher. And they further divided these people by their self-reported weight status at age 10 years – whether they said they had been slim, average, or overweight.
The researchers found the participants’ self-reported childhood weight to be reliable, in that it was “robustly associated” with their expected responses based on a genetic risk score.
Participants in all three categories of childhood weight had similar BMIs in adulthood, yet the prevalence of diabetes was higher among those who had been slim at age 10 years, Tyrrell reported.
Among those overweight as adults, the average BMIs according to childhood weight category ranged from 27.2 to 27.5 kg/m2, but 5.0% of those who were slim as children had diabetes, compared with 3.3–3.4% of those who were average or overweight.
For obese adults, the average BMIs were 33.6, 33.5, and 34.9 kg/m2 for those in the slim, average, and overweight childhood categories, respectively, but the rates of diabetes in adulthood were 14.6%, 11.0%, and 12.3%.
People who became overweight between age 10 and adulthood had a greater than 1.5-fold increased risk for diabetes relative to those whose weight remained stable or to those who were overweight as children but subsequently lost weight. These associations were independent of confounders including age, sex, socioeconomic status, and smoking status.
And the risk was increased further for people who became obese by adulthood, at a significant 1.35-fold increase in diabetes risk compared with those who became overweight.
Tyrrell stressed, however, that although the team adjusted for potential confounders, the fact that these did vary between BMI categories implies the existence of other, unmeasured confounders that could have affected the results. She also mentioned that larger increases in visceral fat among people who gained the most weight could account for their increased diabetes risk.
If not that, she speculated that the association “might be due to adaptation to excess weight in ways that could reduce demand for greater insulin secretion, so by generating more beta cells or subcutaneous adipocytes, for example.”
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