My old alma mater is famous for a football stadium that seats (or at least wedges in) about 113,000 people, give or take a couple thousand.
If the current obesity trend continues, it will get progressively harder to squeeze all those spectator butts into Michigan Stadium without the liberal use of butter. This lends special urgency to the research into the causes, consequences and cures for obesity, some of it being conducted across town in Ann Arbor at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
A recently published study by the University of Michigan Health System of over 8,000 subjects followed from 1981 to 2006 focuses on one of the likely health consequences of obesity: type-2 diabetes. The press release announcing the study (see below) begins by noting that while obesity is a known risk factor for diabetes, what isn’t known is “whether the ‘dose’ of obesity—how much excess weight a person has, and for how long—affects the risk of diabetes.”
Probably most of us won’t be surprised to learn that dose matters. In other words, the researchers found that a person’s odds of developing diabetes increase the longer and the more over-weight he or she is.
With Americans becoming obese earlier and earlier in life, their obesity dose by adulthood will be much greater than for past generations.
The study uses the concept of “excess BMI years.” Someone who is 10 points over the recommended body-mass index of 25 for 10 years would have 100 excess BMI years. The more excess BMI years you amass (so to speak), the higher your risk of becoming diabetic. For instance, a white male age 40 with 200 excess BMI years has 2.94 times the chance of developing diabetes as the same aged white male with 100 excess BMI years.
The study also found that Hispanics and blacks had a higher risk of developing diabetes than whites.
All of this seems plausible, and in line with other research, but doesn’t get us very far in stemming the tide of obesity. In fact, regarding the cause of childhood obesity, the press release contains this marvelous example of circular reasoning: “”We know that, due to the childhood obesity epidemic, younger generations of Americans are becoming heavier much earlier in life . . .”
Translation: the epidemic of people becoming fat early in life is causing them to become fat early in life.
I have nothing to add to that, except “Go Blue!”and “Pass the butter.”
Lee, Joyce et al. Excess Body Mass Index–Years, a Measure of Degree and Duration of Excess Weight, and Risk for Incident Diabetes (Abstract). Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 5 September 2011.
Lifetime ‘dose’ of excess weight linked to risk of diabetes, according to U-M study. Press Release. 6 September 2011.