Research reveals how even modest weight gain can affect type 2 diabetes risk

by Barbara Hewitt on July 20, 2017

Young adults who experience even a moderate weight gain increase their chances of developing type 2 diabetes in later life, the latest research has found.

For every 11 lbs a person gains, their risk of being diagnosed with the condition was increased by 30%, according to the first study of its kind to systematically examine the association between weight gain in early to middle adulthood with health in later life.


The researchers from Harvard University in the United States also found that people with an increased waistline also have a risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, premature death and a decreased likelihood of healthy ageing.

‘The findings indicate that even a modest amount of weight gain may have important health consequences,’ said Professor Frank Hu, of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Most people gain weight cumulatively during young and middle adulthood. Because the amount of weight gain per year may be relatively small, it may go unnoticed by individuals and their doctors, but the cumulative weight gain during adulthood may be large.

The trial looked at the medical records of men and women between 1976 and 2012. Women recalled their weight at 18 and men at 21 and again at 55 and found that women gained an average of 22lbs between early to middle age and men gained 19lbs.

‘These findings may help health professionals counsel patients about the health consequences of weight gain. Prevention of weight gain through healthy diets and lifestyle is of paramount importance,’ said Professor Yan Zheng, who also worked on the study.

Each additional 11 lbs of weight put on before the age of 55 was associated with a 30% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a 14% increased risk of high blood pressure and an 8% higher chance of cardiovascular disease.

Modest weight gain was also associated with a 6% increased risk of obesity related cancer, a 5% increased risk of dying prematurely among people who had never smoked and 17% overall decrease in the odds of ageing healthily.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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