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Association of Childhood Fat Mass and Weight With Adult-Onset Type 2 Diabetes in Denmark

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Importance: Childhood obesity, defined by cutoffs based on the weight-based marker of body mass index, is associated with adult type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk. Whether childhood fat mass (FM) is the driver of these associations is currently unknown.

Objective: To quantify and compare height-independent associations between childhood FM and weight with adult T2D risk in a historic Danish cohort.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This population-based retrospective cohort study included schoolchildren from The Copenhagen School Health Records Register born between January 1930 and December 1985 with follow-up to adulthood through December 31, 2015. Analyses were based on 269 913 schoolchildren aged 10 years with 21 896 established adult T2D cases and 261 192 children aged 13 years with 21 530 established adult T2D cases for whom childhood height and weight measurements, as well as predicted FM, were available. Statistical analyses were performed between April 2019 to August 2020.

Exposures: Childhood FM and weight at ages 10 and 13 years.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Diagnoses of T2D were established by linkage to national disease registers for adults aged at least 30 years. Sex-specific Cox regression quantified associations, adjusted for childhood height, which were evaluated within 5 birth-cohort groups. Group-specific results were pooled using random-effects meta-analyses accounting for heterogeneity across group-specific associations.

Results: This cohort study analyzed data from 269 913 children aged 10 years (135 940 boys [50.4%]) with 21 896 established adult T2D cases and 261 192 children aged 13 years (131 025 boys [50.2%]) with 21 530 established adult T2D cases. After adjusting for childhood height, increases in FM and weight (per kilogram) among boys aged 10 years were associated with elevated T2D risks at age 50 years of 12% (hazard ratio [HR], 1.12; 95% CI, 1.10-1.14) and 7% (HR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.05-1.09), respectively, and among girls aged 10 years of 15% (HR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.13-1.17) and 10% (HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.08-1.11), respectively. Among children aged 13 years, increases in FM and weight (per kilogram) were associated with increased T2D risks at age 50 years of 10% (HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.09-1.10) and 6% (HR, 1.06; 95% CI, 1.05-1.07) for boys, respectively, and of 10% (HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.10-1.11) and 7% (HR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.06-1.08), respectively, for girls.

Conclusions and Relevance: This cohort study found that a 1-kg increase in childhood FM was more strongly associated with increased adult T2D risk than a 1-kg increase in weight, independent of childhood height. Information on FM, rather than weight-based measures, focuses on a modifiable component of weight that may be associated with adult T2D risk. These findings support the assessment of childhood FM in adiposity surveillance initiatives in an effort to reduce long-term T2D risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8524
JournalJAMA network open
Volume4
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)e218524
ISSN2574-3805
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

ID: 65442066