Type 2 diabetes ‘late in life’ due to moderate weight gain
Moderate weight gain in young adults increases their chances of developing type 2 diabetes in later life, research has suggested.
For every 11lbs a person gains, their risk of being diagnosed with the condition was increased by 30 per cent, the findings showed.
People with an increased waistline also have a risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, premature death and decreased the likelihood of healthy ageing, the US researchers warned.
Professor Frank Hu, of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said: “Our study is the first of its kind to systematically examine the association of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with major health risks later in life.
“The findings indicate that even a modest amount of weight gain may have important health consequences.”
The trial looked at the medical records of men and women between 1976 and 2012. Women recalled their weight at 18 and men at 21 and again at 55.
Data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed women gained an average of 22lbs between early to middle age and men gained 19lbs.
Professor Yan Zheng, who also worked on the study, added: “These findings may help health professionals counsel patients about the health consequences of weight gain. Prevention of weight gain through healthy diets and lifestyle is of paramount importance.”
Compared to those who kept a stable weight – not gaining or losing more than 5lbs – those who put on “moderate amounts” had an increased risk of chronic diseases and premature death and were less likely to score well on assessments of physical and cognitive health.
Each additional 11lbs put on before the age of 55 was associated with a 30 per cent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a 14 per cent raised risk of high blood pressure and an eight per cent higher chance of cardiovascular disease.
Modest weight gain was also associated with a six per cent increased risk of obesity-related cancer, five per cent increased risk of dying prematurely among people who had never smoked and 17 per cent overall decrease in the odds of ageing healthily.
Speaking to the Daily Express newspaper Dr Ian Campbell, a family GP and obesity expert, said: “For many of us weight gain begins in early adult life, even childhood, and the cumulative effect of years of being slightly overweight means most of us are avoidably increasing our risk of life changing and life-shortening illnesses.
“The message of this study is clear: the time to start controlling our waistline, whatever our age, is now. Being a normal weight not only feels better but helps you live longer without debilitating illness.”
Professor Kamlesh Khunti, a diabetes expert from the University of Leicester, said: “Exercise is a highly underrated form of medication which, if prescribed more often and earlier in life, would result in more people being healthier, living long and avoiding long-term conditions.
“We published a study last year which looked at lifestyles and talked about the impact on health of people termed as ‘couch potatoes’. The conclusion was simple – higher levels of sedentary behaviour are associated with worse health, whereas higher levels of physical activity are associated with better health.”