Boys who are overweight as children but normalize as young adults have the same risk of type 2 diabetes as men who were never overweight.
According to a study presented on the first day of the American Diabetes Association (ADA)’s 77th Scientific Sessions in San Diego, California, boys who are overweight during childhood but normalize their weight as young adults have the same risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in adulthood as men who were never overweight.
“These findings suggest that adverse metabolic health consequences of being overweight in childhood may possibly be reversed,” Lise G. Bjerregaard, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Frederiksberg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark, and the lead author of the study, said. “We expected that overweight boys who reach normal weight by age 18 could reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, we were excited to discover that achieving normal weight by young adulthood resulted in the same risk level as men who had always been of normal weight.”
In the study titled, “Are Adverse Effects of Child Overweight on Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Reversible by Remission to Normal Weight in Young Adulthood?,” the links between overweight patterns—defined as the combination of weight status in childhood and young adulthood and the development of T2D later in life—were examined. The aim of the study was to determine whether boys who are overweight as children but normalize their weight from age 7 to 18 years could reverse the negative impact of being overweight during childhood.
Typically, being overweight in childhood and young adulthood increases the risk of developing T2D later in life. For purposes of this study, being overweight was defined on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for childhood obesity and the World Health Organization’s Body Mass Index classifications for young adulthood.
The study analyzed health data of 62,565 men in Denmark who had their weight and height measured at age 7 and again at ages 17 to 26. In this cohort, 5.4% of the men were overweight in childhood and 8.2% were overweight in young adulthood, but this also showed that 40% of the men who were overweight in childhood were also overweight in young adulthood.
By 30 years of age, 6710 men had T2D; however, the boys who normalized their weight by their young adult years had a risk of T2D comparable to that of men who were never overweight (Hazard Ratio [HR] = 1.01 [0.87-1.16]).
Of particular concern was the finding that men who were persistently overweight or became overweight as young adults had 3 times the risk of developing T2D compared with non-overweight men who had been overweight as children (HR = 2.88 [2.40, 3.44]) and (HR = 2.95 [2.53, 3.45]), respectively.
“Our results highlight the need for normalizing weight among overweight children before they reach adulthood,” Bjerregaard said. “Prevention and treatment interventions of overweight pediatric populations should be a priority in many countries around the world, especially where there are higher incidences of obese children and rising rates of type 2 diabetes.”
The ADA’s 77th Scientific Sessions is the “world’s largest scientific meeting focused on diabetes research, prevention, and care, according to a press release distributed at the meeting. The 5-day meeting runs through June 13, 2017.