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Weight Loss in Childhood Cuts Women's Odds for Adult Diabetes

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A 16-year study involving almost 110,000 women finds that overweight girls who shed the excess pounds greatly cut their odds for type 2 diabetes as adults.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, tracked the health of women enrolled in the ongoing Nurses Health Study from 1989 to 2005. The nurses were asked to describe their body shape at ages 5, 10 and 20 and also provide their weight at age 18, along with their current height and weight.

According to the researchers, women who were overweight as girls were much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults. For example, women who were a size 6 at age 10 were almost three times more likely to be diabetic as adults, and those who were obese at age 18 (a body-mass index of 30 or over) had an almost ninefold greater risk of developing the illness in adulthood, compared to 18-year-olds of normal weight.

But the study, published in the June issue of Diabetes Care, also found that losing weight during childhood greatly cut the odds. While females who were overweight at ages 5, 10 and 20 were 15 times more likely to become diabetic as adults compared to normal-weight girls, those who were overweight at age 10 but not overweight as adults were no more likely to develop the illness.

"These findings suggest that ensuring that overweight kids reverse their weight gain is critical to limiting their future risk of diabetes as adults," study author Edwina Yeung, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development division of epidemiology, statistics and prevention research, said in an institute news release.

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