Overweight boys who lose weight by the time they reach puberty can halve their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life, Danish researchers have found.
Being overweight at the age of seven was shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood, but only if they were still overweight during puberty.
The research by the Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, Denmark reviewed school health records of 62,565 men from when they were aged seve, 13, and between 17-26.
Nearly 6,710 (10%) of those born between 1939 and 1959 who were monitored using the national patient register went on to develop type 2 diabetes.
The results showed that overweight young males who lowered their BMI by puberty were just as likely as those of a healthy weight to develop type 2 diabetes in adulthood, specifically between the ages of 30 and 60.
Lead author Lise G. Bjerregaard, Ph.D wrote in Science Nordic: “All in all, our results show that overweight around the age of puberty indicates a pattern of weight gain, which is particularly significant for the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“Even boys with obesity could halve their risk by reducing their BMI from ‘obesity’ to ‘overweight’, and they could remove the elevated risk entirely by bringing their BMI down to a normal level.
“Today, as many as 20% of children are overweight. Our results suggest that preventing and treating overweight in prepubescent teenagers can help to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on. These are encouraging results.”
Researchers now want to investigate whether the effects of losing weight in prepubescent girls have the same favorable results, and whether this could impact other health risks such as stroke and heart disease.
The findings have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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