Teenagers' BMI may predict their future type 2 diabetes risk

Increases in body mass index, or BMI, during the late teen years and early adulthood may predict an individual's chances of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life, according to a new study from a team of Brigham and Women's Hospital researchers.

Obesity among individuals in this age group is climbing rapidly. More young adults are now obese than ever before. Additionally, medical professionals have found that when a person gains weight during this period of their life, they are unlikely to lose the weight at a later point. Therefore, these findings could have major implications for the future metabolic and cardiovascular health of millions of people.

For the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers tracked the medical records of 37,000 Israeli 17-year-olds who had recently enlisted in the country's military. During this time, the researchers took BMI measurements. They continued tracking medical data for a period of up to 17 years.

The results of the investigation showed that for every one unit of increase in BMI during early adulthood, lifetime type 2 diabetes risk increased by 10 percent and heart disease risk jumped 12 percent.

Given the fact that childhood obesity rates are rising so quickly, the findings could have major implications, the researchers said.

"The study suggests that the obesity problem in children and teens is likely just the tip of an iceberg for increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease in adulthood," said Amir Tirosh, who led the study. "For prevention of early occurrence of heart disease in adulthood it would seem that very early intervention to promote healthy lifestyle habits is warranted, even during childhood."
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