A new study, published in Diabetes Care, has found that children predisposed to type 1 diabetes who have a high body mass index (BMI) are at risk of more rapid disease progression.
Researchers also discovered that this increased risk associated with BMI could be further compounded by age and sex-related differences.
The team from the University of California, in SF, studied 1,117 autoantibody-positive children from the TrialNet Pathway to Prevention trial.
Islet autoantibodies appear long before the development of type 1 diabetes, which means that those children were already at increased risk of progression to diabetes.
They also had increased genetic susceptibility to it, having relatives with type 1 diabetes.
But, according to this study, their BMI may be a late-stage marker predicting the likelihood of the disease developing and its progression rate.
Researchers made a couple of interesting observations with regard to trends in BMI data and type 1 diabetes risk.
Firstly, they found that an autoantibody-positive child with a BMI in excess of the 85th percentile (a defined threshold adjusted for a child’s age and sex) was at greater risk of progressing to type 1 diabetes.
Second, the risk of BMI-related influence on type 1 diabetes risk progression was more elevated among children under the age of 12, irrespective of how high above treshold their BMI was.
In fact, researchers found that risks were present at lower excess BMI in early years.
The third and last observation researchers made is that the risk of diabetes progression from higher-than-average BMI values seemed to be more pronounced in girls than boys.
Overall these findings tend to suggest that elevated BMI throughout early childhood correlates with type 1 diabetes status after autoantibodies were detected.
The study did not, however, assess how much other contributing factors that have to do with autoantibody appearance, such as the age at which they appeared, weighed into those risks.
A question that remains unanswered is whether lowering BMI can slow down the development of multiple autoantibodies, which appears to be a critical step in the progression to type 1 diabetes.
At any rate, this study emphasises the need to keep active and follow a balanced diet from an early age to maintain a healthy weight and improve health outcomes.

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