Diabetes-related deaths

The increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and eventually dying from the disease, begins early in life and at weights in the “normal” range, a new study suggests.

Researchers followed the fates of millions of Israeli teenagers weighed at age 17, and found a steady increase in the likelihood of death from diabetes-related causes up to age 70 that was tied to heavier weights in the teen years.

“This study provides further evidence for the urgent need for firm public health actions to overcome the childhood obesity epidemic, as its devastating impact on human health is currently underestimated,” said coauthor Hagai Levine of Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Jerusalem.

“Overall, elevated BMI at adolescence, including values within the currently accepted ‘normal’ range, strongly increase risk of diabetes mortality later in life,” Levine told Reuters Health by email.

The researchers used data on more than two million Israeli adolescents who underwent a physical examination when they were evaluated for military service between 1967 and 2010.

The study team then grouped the teens based on age, sex and body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight relative to height.

Following the entire group in national medical records, researchers found 481 deaths with diabetes mellitus listed as the underlying cause. The average age at death was 50 years, and diabetes caused about 1.5 per cent of all deaths in the group during the follow-up period.

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