Objective: The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effect of obesity and linear growth on the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in children.
Research design and methods: The study population consists of all diabetic children <15 years of age diagnosed from September 1986 to April 1989 in Finland and their birth date- and sex-matched population-based control subjects. Growth data were obtained from well-baby clinics and school health care units for 586 diabetic and 571 control subjects, resulting in a total of 18,823 paired weight-height observations.
Results: Both boys and girls who developed type 1 diabetes were heavier and taller throughout childhood than control children. A 10% unit increment in relative weight was associated with a 50-60% increase in the risk of type 1 diabetes before 3 years of age and a 20-40% increase from 3 to 10 years of age. The increase in risk of type 1 diabetes for 1 SD score increment in relative height was 20-30%. Obesity (relative weight > 120%) after 3 years of age was associated with a more than twofold risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Conclusions: The present observation that obesity and rapid linear growth are risk factors for type 1 diabetes in children indicates that the increase in the prevalence of obesity and secular growth that has occurred in most industrialized countries over the last decades may be involved in the increase in type 1 diabetes incidence simultaneously observed in many countries.