Overweight Boys Who Return to Normal Weight Before Young Adulthood Eliminate Increased Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes as Adults


Michelle Kirkwood

San Diego, California
June 9, 2017

Males who are overweight in childhood but achieve normal weight as young adults do not have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood, compared to men who were never overweight, according to a study titled “Are Adverse Effects of Child Overweight on Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Reversible by Remission to Normal Weight in Young Adulthood?” presented today at the American Diabetes Association’s 77th Scientific Sessions® at the San Diego Convention Center. 

Being overweight in childhood and young adulthood is typically associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. To determine whether overweight boys who normalize their weight from age 7-18 could reverse the negative impact of being overweight in childhood, this study examined the links between overweight patterns defined as combinations of weight status in childhood and young adulthood, and later development of type 2 diabetes. 

The study, part of the DynaHEALTH project, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program, analyzed the health data of 62,565 men from the Copenhagen School Health Records Register in Denmark, and the Danish Conscription Database, who had weight and height measured at the age of seven, and in young adulthood (17-26 years). The study defined “overweight” based upon the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for childhood obesity and the World Health Organization Body Mass Index (BMI) classifications for young adulthood. 

The research analysis indicates that being overweight in childhood (5.4 percent of the men) and in young adulthood (8.2 percent of the men) was associated with increased risks of type 2 diabetes (HR7years=1.53 [1.40-1.68]; HRadult=2.96 [2.78-3.15]). A total of 6,710 of the men were classified as having type 2 diabetes at 30 years of age or older, according to the Danish National Patient Register. While 40 percent of the males in the study who were overweight as children were also overweight in young adulthood, boys who normalized their weight by young adulthood had a comparable risk of type 2 diabetes as men who were never overweight (HR=1.01 [0.87-1.16]). Men who were persistently overweight or became overweight as young adults had three times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as compared with non-overweight men who were overweight as children (HR=2.88 [2.40, 3.44] and HR=2.95 [2.53, 3.45] respectively). Hazard ratios (HR) and 95 percent confidence intervals were estimated by Cox regressions.

“These findings suggest that adverse metabolic health consequences of being overweight in childhood may possibly be reversed,” said the study’s lead author Lise G. Bjerregaard, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the department of clinical epidemiology, Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. “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.” 

“Our results highlight the need for normalizing weight among overweight children before they reach adulthood,” explained Bjerregaard. “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.”

To speak with Dr. Bjerregaard, please contact the Association’s media relations team on-site at the San Diego Convention Center on June 9 - 13, by phone at 619-525-6250 or by email at press@diabetes.org.

The American Diabetes Association’s 77th Scientific Sessions, to be held June 9-13, 2017, at the San Diego Convention Center, is the world’s largest scientific meeting focused on diabetes research, prevention and care. During the five-day meeting, health care professionals have exclusive access to more than 2,500 original research presentations, participate in provocative and engaging exchanges with leading diabetes experts, and can earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) or Continuing Education (CE) credits for educational sessions. The program is grouped into eight interest areas: Acute and Chronic Complications; Behavioral Medicine, Clinical Nutrition, Education and Exercise; Clinical Diabetes/Therapeutics; Epidemiology/Genetics; Immunology/Transplantation; Insulin Action/Molecular Metabolism; Integrated Physiology/Obesity; and Islet Biology/Insulin Secretion. Brenda Montgomery, RN, MSHS, CDE¹, President of Health Care and Education , will deliver her address on Saturday, June 10, and Alvin C. Powers, MD, President of Medicine and Science, will present his address on Sunday, June 11. Eight abstracts were selected by the Scientific Sessions Meeting Planning Committee to be presented on Tuesday, June 13, in the President’s Oral Session. These abstracts represent important research being conducted in the field of diabetes today. In total, the 2017 Scientific Sessions includes 378 abstracts in 49 oral sessions; 2,152 poster presentations including 50 moderated poster discussions; and 360 published-only abstracts.

About the American Diabetes Association

Nearly half of American adults have diabetes or prediabetes; more than 30 million adults and children have diabetes; and every 21 seconds, another individual is diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. Founded in 1940, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization whose mission is to prevent and cure diabetes, and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. The ADA drives discovery by funding research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and works to safeguard policies and programs that protect people with diabetes. In addition, the ADA supports people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes, and the health care professionals who serve them through information and programs that can improve health outcomes and quality of life. For more information, please call the ADA at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org. Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn)

1 Disclosures for Brenda Montgomery. Employer: AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Montgomery's role as President, Health Care & Education of the American Diabetes Association (Association) is a voluntary position to which she was elected by the members of the Association in 2015. She continues to recuse herself from any and all discussions, decisions or votes that have or could be perceived as having a conflict of interest with her employer.