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The rising prevalence of childhood obesity has been postulated as an explanation for the increasing rate of individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). In this study, we use Mendelian randomization (MR) to provide evidence that childhood body size has an effect on T1D risk (OR = 2.05 per change in body size category, 95% CI = 1.20 to 3.50, P = 0.008), which remains after accounting for body size at birth and during adulthood using multivariable MR (OR = 2.32, 95% CI = 1.21 to 4.42, P = 0.013). We validate this direct effect of childhood body size using data from a large-scale T1D meta-analysis based on n = 15,573 cases and n = 158,408 controls (OR = 1.94, 95% CI = 1.21 to 3.12, P = 0.006). We also provide evidence that childhood body size influences risk of asthma, eczema and hypothyroidism, although multivariable MR suggested that these effects are mediated by body size in later life. Our findings support a causal role for higher childhood body size on risk of being diagnosed with T1D, whereas its influence on the other immune-associated diseases is likely explained by a long-term effect of remaining overweight for many years over the lifecourse.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

Publication Date





MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU), Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol, United Kingdom.


Humans, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1, Body Size, Adult, Child, Infant, Newborn, Overweight, Mendelian Randomization Analysis, Pediatric Obesity