Study finds DNA markers that could indicate a higher risk of children developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Researchers at the University of Plymouth in England and Nestlé collaborated on a study called EarlyBird, which has found markers in DNA that could identify children who may have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In the past, a high risk of type 2 diabetes was seen as the result of poor nutrition during pregnancy as indicated by low birth weight, Daily Mail reported.
In recent years babies' birth weights have been increasing and yet there has also been a rise in type 2 diabetes, which has led to the search for alternative explanations.
The EarlyBird study was initiated in the early 2000s and tracked 300 healthy children for 15 years, from the age of five to early adulthood.
The aim was to investigate how their metabolisms changed during growth and find out which factors led to the development of the disease in adult life.
The study, which was published in the journal Diabetes Care, claims the earliest signs of the condition were genetic rather than physiological.
Researchers found that the earliest event leading to pre-diabetes was the dysfunction of pancreatic beta-cells. These cells produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels in the body.
“The research… has shown how the risks of future type 2 diabetes can be predicted in childhood,” Jon Pinkney, a professor at the university, told Medical Xpress:
“This opens up the possibility of individualised advice and early interventions to reduce the risk of future type 2 diabetes.”
Dr Francois-Pierre Martin who led the study, said: “We show that beta-cell dysfunction is an early event in the onset of pre-diabetes in children and that this effect is bodyweight-independent.
“We also report in this study that subsequent weight gain during puberty aggravates the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes,” he said.
Dr Martin emphasized the importance of lifestyle and nutritional interventions in childhood to reduce the risks to develop diabetes.
The study was initiated at the start of the obesity epidemic, long before the consideration that children could develop type 2 diabetes.