Heavy kids who normalize weight in childhood avoid extra diabetes risk

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Although being overweight as a child increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood, a new study shows that the extra risk disappears if kids lose their excess weight by age 13 and keep off in early adulthood.

The study, from the University of Copenhagen, is the first and largest to show that if weight is normalized before puberty, you can reduce future risks diabetes.

However, the study of more than 62,500 Danish men didn’t test whether efforts to get children to lose weight lowers the risk. It simply used registry data to track weights at ages seven, 13 and in early adulthood to look for correlations to type 2 diabetes by age 30 to 60.

What it found was that more time spent having a normal weight generally provided more protection.

Past research has focused on obesity, but this new study looked at people who were overweight.

The team found that 72 percent of the males who developed type 2 diabetes between ages 30 and 60 were never overweight.

Age of being overweight mattered for diabetes risk

But in the remaining men, the age when they were overweight made a difference.

Being overweight at age seven, 13 and in early adulthood made it four times more likely that the person would develop diabetes.

Adding extra pounds by the time puberty arrives and keeping them on as an adult posed almost a four-fold greater risk.

“Since overweight during puberty appears to be an important factor involved in increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes in middle and late adulthood, normalization of BMI (body-mass index) before these ages may reduce this risk,” the researchers said.

People in the study who didn’t become overweight until adulthood, and were normal weight at ages seven and 13, had a diabetes risk that was 3.24 times greater.

Among children who became overweight, only the seven-year-olds who lost it by age 13 didn’t have an increased risk.

Youngsters who were overweight at age seven and 13 but lost the extra weight by early adulthood were still 51 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when they grew up.

“We see this as encouraging, that there is hope for the future if we can help these children normalize their weight through exercise and lifestyle changes, not just diet,” said the lead researcher.

Source: The New England Journal of Medicine, online April 4, 2018.

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