For example, the researchers found that a person who carried a BMI of 35 for 10 years -- a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese -- could be considered to have the equivalent of 100 years of excess BMI.
The findings, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, jibe with projections that show diabetes rates exploding as more people spend more of their lives either overweight or obese.
"If you're born in the year 2000 and the current trends continue unchecked, you will have a one in three chance of developing type 2 diabetes," Anderson said. That risk increases for certain ethnic minorities, including African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics.
Diabetes is a systemic disease, and by its nature can affect almost every part of a person's body. Someone with diabetes has a shorter life expectancy, and on any given day has twice the risk for dying as a person of similar age without diabetes, according to the CDC.
"We worry this will be the first generation of Americans who don't live as long as their parents did," Anderson said.
What can be done to alter the potentially grim outlook? To start losing weight, kids need to adopt a set of healthy living skills that become part of their daily routine, said Sheri Colberg-Ochs, an exercise science professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., who works with the American Diabetes Association.
"It's not just the weight, per se," Colberg-Ochs said. "It's the lifestyle they've developed that caused them to gain the extra weight."
First, kids need to be taught to eat healthy foods and to avoid foods that are fatty, sugar-packed or heavily processed, she said.
"When food is a lot more refined, it's lacking in a lot of vitamins and minerals that are essential to your effective metabolic function,
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