Duration of obesity boosts diabetes risk

September 13, 2011

People who carry more weight for a longer period of time are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study has reported.

People who carry more weight for a longer period of time are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study has reported.

The study, conducted by the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, Mich., examined around 8,000 adolescents and young adults. The study is published in the September issue of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers found that a measure of degree and duration of excess weight (based on the number of years the body mass index was 25 or higher) was a better predictor of diabetes risk than a single measurement of excess weight. For example, individuals with a BMI of 35 for 10 years would be considered to have 100 years of excess BMI. (A BMI over 25 is considered overweight, and a BMI over 30 is considered obese.)

“Our study finds that the relationship between weight and type 2 diabetes is similar to the relationship between smoking and the risk of lung cancer. The amount of excess weight that you carry and the number of years for which you carry it dramatically increase your risk of diabetes,” said Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s hospital and lead author of the study.

Researchers noted that children are becoming heavier earlier in life, so they are carrying extra weight for longer periods over their lifetimes. “When you add the findings from this study, rates of diabetes in the United States may rise even higher than previously predicted,” Lee said.