Longer Obesity Duration Increases Cardiometabolic Disease Risk

A longer duration of obesity is associated with greater cardiometabolic disease risk factors, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine. Risk stratification for cardiometabolic disease is not the same for all people with obesity, defined here as individuals with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2. The amount of time a person has spent with obesity over their life is suspected to be a factor in cardiometabolic risk variation for this population. For this study, researchers collected data from three British birth cohort studies to derive BMI trajectories between the ages of 10 and 40 for 20,746 participants. The cohort was 49.1% male and 97.2% white British. The team calculated total time spent and severity of obesity as well as blood pressure, cholesterol, and glycated hemoglobin, or blood sugar, measurements, which are linked to cardiometabolic disease risk factors. The researchers found that a longer duration of obesity was associated with worse values for all measured cardiometabolic risk factors. In particular, the association was strong for glycated hemoglobin measures: less than 5 years of obesity was linked to 5% higher blood sugar levels (95% confidence interval [CI] 4-6) and 20 to 30 years of obesity had 20% higher levels (95% CI 17-23) compared with individuals with no years of obesity. This risk remained after adjustment for obesity severity. Higher cholesterol and blood pressure levels were also associated with obesity duration, but these results were attenuated when adjusting for obesity severity. “Our findings suggest that health policy recommendations aimed at preventing early obesity onset, and therefore reducing lifetime exposure, may help reduce risk of diabetes, independently of obesity severity,” the authors said in a press release.