More years of obesity linked to higher risk of disease, study suggests

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More years of obesity are associated with a higher risk of disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that a greater obesity duration is linked with worse values for all cardiometabolic disease factors.

People with obesity do not all share the same risk for developing these disease risk factors.

According to the observational study, how long someone spent with obesity over their lifetime may affect this variation.

The authors wrote: “Our findings suggest that health policy recommendations aimed at preventing early obesity onset, and therefore reducing lifetime exposure, may help reduce risk of diabetes, independently of obesity severity.”

Scientists 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 haemoglobin (blood sugar) measurements – in 20,746 participants.

They found that more years of obesity was associated with worse values for all of the measured cardiometabolic risk factors.

The association was particularly strong for glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), according to the study published in the PLOS Medicine journal, by Tom Norris of Loughborough University

Those with fewer than five years of obesity had a 5% higher HbA1c, compared to people with no years of obesity.

While those who had been obese for 20 to 30 years, had a 20% higher HbA1c, compared to people with no obesity.

The researchers say that importantly, this increased risk persisted when adjustment was made for a robust measure of life course obesity severity.

Other measures of cardiometabolic disease risk (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, high density-lipoprotein cholesterol) were also associated with obesity duration.

However, these were largely reduced when adjusting for obesity severity.