Weight Loss Before Puberty Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes – University of Copenhagen

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05 April 2018

Weight Loss Before Puberty Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Overweight

A high body mass index (BMI) and overweight during childhood increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. But now researchers from SUND and the Capital Region of Denmark have shown that this only applies to persons who continue to be overweight during puberty or later.


A new study that has just been published in the scientific New England Journal of Medicine shows that overweight boys are able to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they lose weight before reaching puberty. Previous studies have been too small to satisfactorily answer whether weight loss among overweight children before adulthood can help reduce their otherwise increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and they have been unable to show whether just a small reduction in BMI can reduce this risk.

’However, our study shows that overweight boys who manage to normalise their BMI before puberty and to maintain the standard weight until being weighed in connection with the conscription examination had the same risk of developing type 2 diabetes as boys displaying standard weight at the age of seven and until the conscription examination weighing’, says Postdoc Lise G. Bjerregaard from the Centre for Clinical Research and Prevention, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospitals. She is behind the study, which was conducted together with Jennifer L. Baker from the Centre for Clinical Research and Prevention and Associate Professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Section for Metabolic Genetics and Thorkild IA Sørensen, professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Section for Metabolic Genetics Department of Public Health.

The Key Is Prevention and Early Treatment
The study suggests that prevention and pre-puberty treatment of overweight are key weapons in the fight against type 2 diabetes:

‘Our results show the importance of prevention and treatment of overweight in children, especially before they reach puberty, as this can potentially reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life significantly’, Jennifer L. Baker explains.

The World’s Largest Study of Its Kind
The study is based on height and weight measurements from school doctor records and from conscription examination records of 62,565 men measured at the age of seven, 13 and in connection with their conscription examination at the age of 17-26 years, respectively. The men born between 1939 and 1959 were followed via the National Patient Registry. A total of 6,710 men received a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in adulthood. The study is the largest of its kind in the world.

Watch Out for Overweight at the Age of 13
The risk was highest among the men who had been overweight at the age of 13 and as young men and among the men who had been overweight both at the age of seven, 13 and as young men. Both groups had four times as high a risk of developing type 2 diabetes as men displaying standard weight at all ages. For men who had been recorded as overweight only in connection with the conscription examination the risk was three times as high. That is, overweight at the age of 13 is especially risky.

The study also showed that boys who had been obese at the age of seven or 13 benefit from normalising their BMI before the time of their conscription examination. Though they are unable to fully eliminate the increased risk, they are able to reduce it significantly.

The scientific article 'Change in Overweight from Childhood to Early Adulthood and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes’ is published in New England Journal of Medicine.

FACTS

  • The study is funded by the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 (n° 633595, DynaHEALTH) and the European Research Council (FP7/2007-2013, ERC n° 281419).
  • The new Centre for Clinical Research and Prevention is the result of a merger between two research units in the Capital Region of Denmark.
  • The new centre, which is headed by Head of Centre Tine Jess and Head of Research Allan Linneberg, has a staff of 100, who do research within the fields of clinical epidemiology, population-based epidemiology and health promotion.


Contact:

Associate Professor Jennifer L. Baker
+45 35 33 46 67
jennifer.baker@sund.ku.dk