Teen BMI Predicts Future Health

Teen BMI Predicts Future Health
Reported April 11, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — We all know diabetes and heart disease are threats as we get older. However, a new study shows that BMI (body mass index) at age 17 can be a reliable predictor of diabetes and heart disease risk.

The study was comprised of 37,000 Israeli army career personnel who were monitored over several years. The first baseline reading of BMI was taken when the participants were 17 years old; after that, BMI was measured every few years for an average period of 17 years. On average, BMI of the participants increased at a rate of about 0.2-0.3 units per year, culminating in an average weight gain of about 30 pounds between the ages of 17 and 30. 1,173 participants developed diabetes during the study, and 327 participants were diagnosed with heart disease.

Even when allowing for risk factors for both diseases, such as family history, age and blood pressure, the researchers found the BMI at age 17 was a reliable predictor for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For every increase of 1 unit of BMI, the risk of diabetes went up 10-percent and the risk of heart disease increased by 12-percent.

Professor Assaf Rudich, of Ben-Gurion University, was quoted as saying: “This study is significant because it demonstrates that the association exits within the currently-considered normal values for BMI, having distinct effect on two diseases occurring in early adulthood and in an age group that is frequently neglected.”

In addition, increased risk of diabetes at age 17 was significant at BMI values of 23.4 Kg/m2 or higher, which roughly corresponds to 163 lbs or more for a 5’10” male teenager. Increased risk of heart disease was significant at a BMI of 20.9 Kg/m2, or 146 lbs for a 5’10” male teen. The fact that BMI at age 17 is an indicator of increased risk for diabetes can be explained by the fact that diabetes risk is associated with BMI later in life as well. For heart disease, however, the BMI at adolescence and the BMI at adulthood predicted risk independently of each other. Ben-Gurion University’s Professor Iris Shai was quoted as saying: “It would seem that heart disease has a longer ‘memory’ for BMI than diabetes, and history of a person’s BMI should be part of risk assessment.”

“The study suggest that the obesity problem in children and teens is likely just the tip of the iceberg for increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease in adulthood,” Amir Tirosh, MD PhD, of the Endocrine Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and lead author of the study, was quoted as saying. “For prevention of early occurrence of heart disease in adulthood, it would seem that very early intervention to promote healthy lifestyle habits is warranted, even during childhood.”


SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, April 7, 2011