How long a person has been obese and how overweight they have been are real risk factors in measuring the risk of type II diabetes, new research finds.

A study by University of Michigan Health System analyzed 8,000 adolescents and young adults for how the degree and duration of carrying extra weight are connected to risk factors for developing type II diabetes in adulthood. The study was published in the journal Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.

"The amount of excess weight that you carry, and the number of years for which you carry it, dramatically increases your risk of diabetes “said study lead author Joyce Lee, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatric endocrinologist at the university’s C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

Obesity impacts approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.

"We know that, due to the childhood obesity epidemic, younger generations of Americans are becoming heavier much earlier in life, and are carrying the extra weight for longer periods over their lifetimes," says Lee. "When you add the findings from this study, rates of diabetes in the United States may rise even higher than previously predicted."

Researchers found that depending on the degree and duration of weight was a better predictor of diabetes risk than a single measurement of excess weight. For example, individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 for 10 years would be considered to have 100 years of excess BMI.

Nationally an adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considers overweight, 30 is considered morbidly obese.

Previous studies point out that BMI increases with age, and children who are obese are more likely to become obese as adults. Obesity has been linked with increased risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and premature death.

Based on the latest findings, Lee suggests obesity prevention and treatment efforts should focus on adolescents and young adults, especially racial minorities. Measuring and following BMI and the cumulative "dose" of excess BMI may be helpful for clinicians and patients in understanding risk of diabetes in the future.