More years of obesity means higher risk of disease, study finds

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In a new study, researchers found that a greater obesity duration is linked to worse values for all heart-metabolic disease factors.

The research was conducted by a team at Loughborough University, UK.

People with obesity do not all share the same risk for the development of cardio-metabolic disease risk factors.

The duration a person has spent with obesity over their lifetime has been hypothesized to affect this variation.

In the study, researchers used data from three British birth cohort studies that collected information on body mass index from age 10 to 40 as well as cardiometabolic disease risk factors—blood pressure, cholesterol, and glycated hemoglobin (blood sugar) measurements—in 20,746 participants.

They found more years of obesity was linked to worse values for all measured cardio-metabolic risk factors.

The association was particularly strong for glycated hemoglobin, or HbA1c; those with less than five years of obesity had a 5% higher HbA1c compared to people with no years of obesity.

Those with 20 to 30 years of obesity had a 20% higher HbA1c (compared to people with no obesity.

Importantly, this increased risk persisted when adjustment was made for a robust measure of life course obesity severity.

Other measures of cardio-metabolic disease risk (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, high density lipoprotein cholesterol) were also linked to obesity duration, though these were largely attenuated when adjusting for obesity severity.

These findings suggest that health policy recommendations aimed at preventing early obesity onset, and therefore reducing lifetime exposure, may help reduce the risk of diabetes, the team says.

One author of the study is Tom Norris.

The study is published in PLOS Medicine.

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