Obesity Increases Childhood Diabetes Risk

Children with obesity may be 4 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Obesity and diabetes have plagued individuals around the world with numerous health problems, including heart disease and death. While the link between obesity and diabetes has been well-established, the prevalence of both conditions continues to grow around the world.

This epidemic has also spread to children, with obesity affecting more than 12.7 million children and teenagers in the United States alone.

Findings from a new large-scale study published by the Journal of the Endocrine Society suggests that pediatric obesity may quadruple the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

"As the prevalence of obesity and being overweight has rapidly risen, an increasing number of children and young adults have been diagnosed with diabetes in the United Kingdom since the early 1990s," said study author, Ali Abbasi, MD, PhD. "A child with obesity faces a four-fold greater risk of being diagnosed with diabetes by age 25 than a counterpart who is normal weight."

Included in the study were data from electronic health records, body mass index, diabetes status, and other information for 369,362 patients aged 2 to 15.

Between 1994 and 2013, the authors found that 1318 patients were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, while 654 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Approximately half of all patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during this time had obesity, according to the study.

The authors reported no link between type 1 diabetes and obesity. Since type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, it has not been associated with obesity or overweight.

Another study discovered that incidence of newly-diagnosed type 1 diabetes among youth increased approximately 1.8% each year from 2002 to 2012, and cases of type 2 diabetes increased 4.8% each year.

Since both type 2 diabetes and obesity can be prevented, there should be an increased importance placed on avoiding these conditions in young children, the study concluded.

"Diabetes imposes a heavy burden on society because the condition is common and costly to treat," Dr Abbasi said. "Estimates indicate one in 11 adults has type 2 diabetes, or about 415 million people worldwide. Given that diabetes and obesity are preventable from early life, our findings and other research will hopefully motivate the public and policymakers to invest and engage in diabetes prevention efforts."