Researchers at the University of Plymouth and Nestlé have revealed new insights into the factors that predispose children to developing type 2 diabetes in adult life.
The findings have emerged from a unique study, EarlyBird, that followed 300 healthy children in Plymouth, UK, for 15 years to determine who would become at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and why.
The EarlyBird researchers monitored the children from five years of age to early adulthood to explore how the metabolism changes during growth. The findings, appearing in a series of peer-reviewed scientific publications, have shed new light on the biological and physiological factors that are relevant for metabolic health in childhood.
The latest results, published in Diabetes Care (doi: 10.2337/dc19-0806), show that the earliest event leading to pre-diabetes (the earliest signs of diabetes) is dysfunction of the pancreatic beta-cell, independent of body weight. Beta-cells in the pancreas produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. The study also showed that this beta-cell dysfunction was associated with the presence of genetic factors previously associated with type 2 diabetes in adults.
This discovery could lead to the early identification of children that are at high risk of future type 2 diabetes.