Children who are overweight at age 7 may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes in adulthood by losing weight before puberty, according to a study recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine. However, children who are either obese at age 7 or overweight at age 13 may only partially reduce this risk by losing weight.

This study included 62,565 adult men from Denmark, 6710 of whom had type 2 diabetes at age ≥30 years. Their height and weight had been recorded at ages 7, 13, and between 17 and 26, and a national health registry provided information on cases of type 2 diabetes.

There were 3373 (5.4%) men who were overweight at age 7, 3418 (5.5%) at age 13, and 5108 in early adulthood (8.2%). This overweight showed a positive association with risk for type 2 diabetes, with older participants showing a stronger association with overweight and younger individuals with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

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Men who had reduced their weight by age 13 showed a similar risk for type 2 diabetes diagnosis between ages 30 and 60 as men who were never overweight (hazard ratio [HR] 0.96). Those who were overweight between age 7 and 13 but who had lost the weight by early adulthood were more at risk than those who had never been overweight (HR 1.47).

Men who stayed overweight throughout were at 4.14 times greater risk for type 2 diabetes than those who had never been overweight (95% CI, 3.57-4.79). Those whose body mass index had increased from age 7 to early adulthood were at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, regardless of whether their weight had been healthy at age 7.

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Researchers conclude that “the adverse effects of childhood overweight at 7 years of age on the risk of type 2 diabetes are reduced by remission of overweight before puberty and maintenance of a normal weight until early adulthood, whereas the adverse effects of obesity at 7 years of age or overweight at 13 years of age are only partly reversible. Moreover, overweight during the period spanning puberty…is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than is development of overweight by early adulthood.”


Bjerregaard LG, Jensen BW, Ängquist L, Osler M, Sørensen TIA, Baker JL. Change in overweight from childhood to early adulthood and risk of type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2018; 5;378(14):1302-1312.