Link between child abuse, type 2 diabetes in women...but there's a surprise

A study of 70,000 nurses found a link between abuse they experienced as children and teens, and type 2 diabetes they developed as adults. Patricia McAdams wrote up the study in Health Behavior News Service. It was published in the December 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Much, although not all, of this association is explained by the greater weight gain of girls with a history of abuse,” said lead study author Janet Rich-Edwards. “The weight gain seems to start in teenage years and continues into adulthood, increasing the risk of diabetes.”

The research project is one of many coming out of the Nurses Health Study II, which was started in 1989 with 67,853 registered nurses. It is an outgrowth of the first Nurses Health Study, which began in 1976.

What startled the researchers at Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital was how many nurses reported that they'd suffered physical and sexual abuse:

54 percent of nurses reported physical abuse and 34 percent reported sexual abuse before age 18. Moderate and severe physical and sexual abuse were associated with 26 percent to 69 percent higher risks of diabetes in maturity.

That's not surprising to ACE Study researchers, who, in 2002, published research that found a direct link between child trauma and obesity. They looked at physical, sexual and emotional abuse in 13,000 people who were members of the Kaiser Permanente Health Maintenance Organization in San Diego, CA. Most were white, had attended college, were employed and had health insurance (Kaiser).

The two types of trauma researchers found that were most associated with body weight and obesity were physical and emotional abuse.

In a weight clinic run by Kaiser Permanente, many people who were severely overweight and grappling with type 2 diabetes were able to lose enough weight and become healthy again so that they no longer needed medication. The weight clinic is unusual in that the starting point of discussion with participants is to recognize that being overweight isn't a problem; for many people who are obese, it's a solution.

One woman was reported to have told a physician why she'd gained 105 pounds in the year after she was raped at age 23. "Overweight is overlooked," she told the physician. "And that's the way I need to be."

More on this in a later post.

Tagged: ACE Study

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