Childhood adiposity genes associated with risk for type 1 diabetes

Published: 2017-08-08

A study led by Tove Fall (Uppsala University/SciLifeLab) shows that genetic variants associated with childhood body mass index (BMI) can be linked to the occurrence of type 1 diabetes. The results, published in PLOS Medicine, provides evidence that could be part of the explanation behind todays’s increased rates of type 1 diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) rates have been increasing globally in recent decades; however, the contributing factors to this increase have not been established. The present study investigated if genetic variants associated with childhood body mass index (BMI) were also associated with T1D risk in 5,913 T1D patients and 8,828 control samples. Using an analysis that limits bias from confounding factors, i.e. interference by a third variable that distorts the association being studied between two first variables, the researchers found that a genetically predicted increase in childhood BMI by 1 standard deviation is associated with an average 32% increased risk of T1D.

As the underlying genes and adiposity-increasing mechanisms for most of the genetic variants included in the study are not known, there is a possibility that the genetic variants affect T1D risk through other mechanisms than through adiposity. Nevertheless, together with previous studies, the current findings reinforce the need to address rising childhood overweight and obesity rates, whose adverse consequences in adulthood pose serious challenges to personal and population health.