Researchers for the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford have found that childhood obesity increases the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in later life, according to Medical Xpress.
Analyzing genetic data on more than 400,000 individuals, the researchers also found evidence that being obese or overweight over many years from childhood increases the risk of other conditions, such as asthma, eczema, and hypothyroidism.
For the last two decades, the incidence of type 1 diabetes is on the rise, and one possible explanation is the rising prevalence of childhood obesity.
High fat, high carb, and high salt diets may affect early life health-promoting effects of the intestinal bacteria and pancreatic beta-cell fragility in children, subsequently increasing the risk of type 1 diabetes.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed human genetic data from more than 454,000 individuals from the UK Biobank and over 15,500 cases of type 1 diabetes from other cohorts to provide evidence that childhood obesity increases type 1 diabetes risk. They applied a scientific technique known as Mendelian Randomization (MR).
By applying MR, the study’s findings support the inference that obesity in early life increases the risk of type 1 diabetes. Also, the findings suggest that the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity contributes to the rising numbers of type 1 diabetes cases.
The researchers also investigated the consequences of childhood obesity on other diseases related to the immune system, such as asthma, eczema, and hypothyroidism. They found that childhood obesity increases the risk of these diseases, but this is likely due to long-term complications of being overweight for years.
The study’s lead author Dr. Tom Richardson said, “The effect of childhood obesity directly increases type 1 diabetes risk, emphasizing the importance of implementing preventative policies to lower the prevalence of childhood obesity and its subsequent influence on the rising numbers of cases for this lifelong disease.”
“A critical window exists in childhood to mitigate the influence of adiposity on the escalating numbers of type 1 diabetes diagnoses.”
“A 22% reduction in the number of these cases is plausible if the proportion of children within the highest obesity category were to be reduced by 10%, from 15.9 to 5.9%,” he added. “This will help ease healthcare burdens and also potentially improve the quality of life for individuals living with this lifelong disease.”