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Children's Health

Overweight Teens Face Heart Risks as Adults

Study Shows Heart Risk Persists Even if a Person Loses Weight in Adulthood
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Diabetes Risks May Be Changed

In contrast with what happened with heart disease in the study, researchers found that diabetes risk could be more malleable. That is, if heavy teens lost weight as adults, their risk of getting type 2 diabetes was erased.

“This is the good news, actually, of the study,” Tirosh says. “For those who would not grow up to become overweight or obese, the risk is completely reversible.”

Though the study had some limitations, including the fact that it didn’t include girls, experts say the finding was significant.

“I think it’s a very interesting and important study,” says Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD, chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. Daniels is also pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital, Denver.

“One of the things we’ve been lacking is this longitudinal look at what happens in childhood and adolescence and how that plays out in adulthood in terms of the kind of outcomes they were looking at,” says Daniels, who co-authored an American Heart Association scientific statement on obesity in children but was not involved in the current research.

“Our approach to looking at BMI in children has always been a statistical approach, meaning that we took a population and assumed that it was the people at the upper end of that distribution where the problems were,” Daniels says. “We’ve never really had a good outcome-based definition of body mass index in children.”

Tracking Heart and Diabetes Risk

Researchers followed more than 37,000 Israeli young men who received health screenings at age 17 when they signed up for their country’s mandatory military service.

They continued to get checkups every three to five years until they were in their early to mid-30s.

After an average of 17 years, researchers documented nearly 1,200 cases of type 2 diabetes and 327 cases of cardiovascular disease, which was defined as having at least one coronary artery at least 50% blocked.

Looking back at the men’s BMIs when they first started the study, researchers saw a clear link between their size and their risks for both diabetes and heart disease.

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