Childhood obesity issues linger into adulthood

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by Aimee Keenan-Greene

The New England Journal of Medicine is reporting on a new link between adolescence body mass index and adult obesity rates.

The prospective study followed 37,674 healthy young teen men through the Staff Periodic Examination Center of the Israeli Army Medical Corps, to look for coronary heart disease and diabetes.

Scientists found that during a mean follow-up of 17.4 years,  1173 incident cases of type 2 diabetes and 327 of coronary heart disease were documented in the men who were then in their 30's.

Researchers also found an elevated BMI in adolescence, one that is well within the range currently considered to be normal, constitutes a substantial risk factor for obesity-related disorders in midlife.

Although the risk of diabetes is mainly associated with increased BMI close to the time of diagnosis, the risk of coronary heart disease is associated with an elevated BMI both in adolescence and in adulthood, supporting the hypothesis that coronary heart disease, particularly atherosclerosis, starts in childhood and is more gradual than the development of diabetes.

Researchers write: "In multivariate models adjusted for age, family history, blood pressure, lifestyle factors, and biomarkers in blood, elevated adolescent BMI (the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters; mean range for the first through last deciles, 17.3 to 27.6) was a significant predictor of both diabetes (hazard ratio for the highest vs. the lowest decile, 2.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.11 to 3.58) and angiography-proven coronary heart disease (hazard ratio, 5.43; 95% CI, 2.77 to 10.62). 

Further adjustment for BMI at adulthood completely ablated the association of adolescent BMI with diabetes (hazard ratio, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.75 to 1.37) but not the association with coronary heart disease (hazard ratio, 6.85; 95% CI, 3.30 to 14.21). After adjustment of the BMI values as continuous variables in multivariate models, only elevated BMI in adulthood was significantly associated with diabetes (β=1.115, P=0.003; P=0.89 for interaction). In contrast, elevated BMI in both adolescence (β=1.355, P=0.004) and adulthood (β=1.207, P=0.03) were independently associated with angiography-proven coronary heart disease (P=0.048 for interaction)."

Some of the risks associated with being an overweight teenager apparently don't go away, even if a person loses weight later in life, according to WebMD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says childhood obesity affects approximately 12.5 million children and teens, 17 percent of that population. Changes in obesity prevalence from the 1960s show a rapid increase in the 1980s and 1990s, when obesity prevalence among children and teens tripled, from nearly 5 percent to approximately 15 percent.

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