Putting on weight as a teenager significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to research.
Children who are of a healthy weight at the age of ten but overweight or obese by adulthood are at a 53 % increased risk of diabetes.
Researchers from Exeter University found those who put on lots of weight were at an even greater risk than those who were overweight to begin with.
The findings, presented at a conference for the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Berlin, suggest those who are too fat from early childhood adapt to the weight. However, those who start off thin and then gain weight in their teenage years may put a major strain on their metabolism.
The findings are particularly concerning in light of Britain’s spiralling child obesity crisis.
Some 34% of children are overweight when they leave primary school at 11 – a figure that rises every year, according to Public Health England. This has caused diabetes rates to soar.
A national audit by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health earlier this year showed the number of under-25s being treated for type 2 diabetes has increased by 40 per cent in the last three years alone.
Dr Jessica Tyrrell, who led the new research, said: ‘These findings suggest that individuals who remain in the higher BMI [body mass index] range throughout life may adapt to excess weight in ways that lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in comparison to individuals of similar adult BMI that have increased from lower to higher BMI since childhood.’
Dr Tyrrell’s team looked at health data from 372,000 people in Britain. They analysed participants’ BMI as adults and compared it with their self-reported body size at age ten.
They found that those who had been thin in childhood but overweight in adulthood were 53 per cent more likely to have diabetes than those whose BMI had not significantly increased.
The number of Britons with diabetes – a major cause of heart attacks and strokes – has doubled in just 20 years. Almost 3.7million people have been diagnosed, up from 1.9million in 1998.
Type 2 diabetes usually occurs when fat content in the body becomes so high that it stops insulin maintaining a normal blood glucose level.