Experts say that being obese as a child can quadruple a person’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Given that childhood obesity is a growing problem, a new study from Denmark has offered some encouraging news.
The researchers, who were from Bispebjerg and Fredericksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, looked at the health records of nearly 73,000 Danish men who had been born between 1939 and 1959. They had all had their height and weight measured and recorded when they were seven years old. They all also had undergone a health examination around age 18 as a mandatory component of national service. On the whole, as youngsters the men tended to be slim — 5.4% were overweight at age 7 and 8.2% were overweight at age 18. Most of the men who were overweight in childhood lost weight as they aged — only 40% of the overweight youngsters were still overweight as adults. The researchers also looked at diabetes statistics and found that 10.7% of the men developed Type 2 diabetes at age 30 or older.
The researchers discovered that men who were persistently overweight or who became overweight as young adults were three times as likely as the men of normal weight to develop diabetes. That came as no surprise, but another finding was unexpected. It turned out that men who were overweight as boys but who had slimmed down to a normal weight by the time they reached adulthood had a risk of developing diabetes that was no higher than that of men who had never been overweight. “These results are encouraging,” said Lise Geisler Bjerregaard, PhD, one of members of the research team. “Our results suggest that the adverse effects of child overweight on the risk of Type 2 diabetes may be reversible, and they highlight the need for normalizing weight among children who are overweight.”