Males who are overweight in childhood but achieve normal weight before adulthood have no increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to men who were never overweight, research presented at the 77th American Diabetes Association congress found.

The study, part of the DynaHEALTH project, analysed the health data of more than 62,000 men from the Copenhagen School Health Register in Denmark, and the Danish Conscription Database, and who had their height and weight measured at the age of 7 and again between the ages of 17 and 26.

The research analysis found that being overweight in childhood (5.4% of the men) and in young adulthood (8.2% of the men) was associated with an increased risk of diabetes. In total, 6,710 of the men were classified as having type 2 diabetes at 30 years of age or older, according to the Danish National Patient Register.

However, while 40% of the males in the study who were overweight as children were also overweight as young adults, boys who normalised their weight by young adulthood had a comparable risk of developing type 2 diabetes as men who were never overweight.

Lead author Lise G. Bjerregaard, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the department of clinical epidemiology, Frederiksberg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark, said: “These findings suggest that adverse metabolic health consequences of being overweight in childhood may possibly be reversed.

“We expected that overweight boys who reach normal weight by 18 could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, we were excited to discover that achieving normal weight by young adulthood resulted in the same risk level as men who had always been normal weight.

“Our results highlight the need for normalising weight among overweight children before they reach adulthood. Prevention and treatment interventions of overweight paediatric populations should be a priority in many countries around the world, especially where there are higher incidences of obese children and rising rates of type 2 diabetes.”