Most of the common chronic metabolic diseases of adulthood, and those that ultimately reduce life expectancy, have their origin in childhood. At this time in life, genetic factors, which are often reflected in family history and ethnic background, interact with children’s growth and development, and a range of environmental and lifestyle influences. Ultimately, opportunities for the prevention of major adult diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease lie in childhood. However, in order to be able to screen for early evidence for disease, or risk of disease, there is need to understand how and when these diseases originate during childhood. 

The EarlyBird study is an important “cohort study” designed to investigate childhood predictors of adult health. The study was originally set up by Professor Wilkin in 1999. The study was designed to investigate the origins of weight gain and the long term effects of weight gain and obesity on the risks of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The EarlyBird study is one of only a small number of long term cohort studies of healthy children around the world, and has made a significant contribution to understanding the early origins of obesity-related adult disease.

Data Collection:

The EarlyBird study started collecting data in 2000 when the 300 young participants were aged 5 and the most recent set of data was completed in 2016 when all participants had reached the age of 18 years. Therefore, the participants were followed from childhood, through adolescence, and into adult life and the completion of growth and development. Since the start of the study, obesity and diabetes have become huge public health concerns, not just in the UK, but around the world, and so lessons from the EarlyBird study are even more important now in 2020. With the passage of time, the EarlyBird study becomes an increasingly valuable and unique resource.


The research group has close research collaborations with the Nestle Institute for Health Research at the university of Lausanne, who have been interested in children’s nutrition and long term health. We also have a collaboration with Professor Ranjan Yajnik at King Edward memorial Hospital Research Centre in Pune, India. This collaborative study is investigating ethnic differences in children’s adiposity and insulin resistance.


The outstanding publication output of the EarlyBird study currently includes around 80 peer reviewed papers on all aspects of child development, endocrinology, health and metabolism, and risks of development of diabetes. Important recent publications include the demonstration that blood glucose levels in children result from an interaction of weight gain and insulin resistance with genetic factors affecting insulin secretion. This observation shows how type 2 diabetes is likely to arise as a result of interaction between genetic and environmental factors (Carayol et al 2020), and has important public health implications. We have also investigated metabonomic signatures of obesity and insulin resistance, with unique findings, revealing the complex biochemical changes that precede and accompany the development of insulin resistance during children’s development (Hosking et al 2019, Cominetti et al 2020).



  • Cominetti O, Hosking J, Jeffery A, Pinkney J, Martin F-P. Contributions of fat and carbohydrate metabolism to glucose homeostasis in childhood change with age and puberty: a 12-yr cohort study (EARLYBIRD 77). Frontiers in Nutrition. 2020 (accepted for publication).
  • Chynoweth J, Hosking J, Jeffery A, Pinkney J. Contrasting impact of androgens on male and female adiposity, fat distribution and insulin resistance in childhood and adolescence (EarlyBird 75). Pediatric Obesity 2020 In press.

  • Carayol J, Hosking J, Pinkney J, Marquis J, Charpagne A, Metairon S, Jeffery A, Hager J, Martin F-P. Genetic Susceptibility Determines β-Cell Function and Fasting Glycemia Trajectories Throughout Childhood: A 12-Year Cohort Study (EarlyBird 76) Diabetes Care. 2020 Jan 8 [Online ahead of print].

  • Hosking J , Pinkney J, Jeffery A, Comminetti O , Da Silva L , Collino S, Kussman M , Hager J , Martin F-P. Insulin Resistance During Normal Child Growth and Development Is Associated With a Distinct Blood Metabolic Phenotype (Earlybird 72) Pediatr Diabetes 2019; 20 (7): 832-841.

  • Lauria M, Persico M, Dordevic N, Cominetti O, Matone A, Hosking J, Jeffery A, Pinkney J, Da Silva L, Priami C, Montoliu I, Martin FP. Consensus Clustering of temporal profiles for the identification of metabolic markers of pre-diabetes in childhood (EarlyBird 73). Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 23;8(1):1393. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-19059-2.

  • Jeffery SC, Hosking J, Jeffery AN, Murphy MJ, Voss LD, Wilkin TJ, Pinkney J. Insulin resistance is higher in prepubertal girls but switches to become higher in boys at age 16: A Cohort Study (EarlyBird 57). Pediatr Diabetes. 2018 Mar;19(2):223-230. doi: 10.1111/pedi.12571. Epub 2017 Aug 29.

  • Mostazir M, Jeffery A, Voss L, Wilkin T. Generational change in fasting glucose and insulin among children at ages 5-16y: Modelled on the EarlyBird study (2015) and UK growth standards (1990) (EarlyBird 69). Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2017 Jan;123:18-23. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2016.11.014. Epub 2016 Nov 28.

  • Mostazir M, Jeffery A, Hosking J, Metcalf B, Voss L, Wilkin T. Evidence for energy conservation during pubertal growth. A 10-year longitudinal study (EarlyBird 71). Int J Obes (Lond). 2016 Nov;40(11):1619-1626. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2016.158. Epub 2016 Sep 8. PubMed PMID: 27604470.

  • Mostazir M, Jeffery A, Voss L, Wilkin T. Childhood obesity: evidence for distinct early and late environmental determinants a 12-year longitudinal cohort study (EarlyBird 62). Int J Obes (Lond). 2016 Feb;40(2):380. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.248.

  • Metcalf BS, Hosking J, Henley WE, Jeffery AN, Mostazir M, Voss LD, Wilkin TJ. Physical activity attenuates the mid-adolescent peak in insulin resistance but by late adolescence the effect is lost: a longitudinal study with annual measures from 9-16 years (EarlyBird 66). Diabetologia. 2015 Dec;58(12):2699-708. doi:10.1007/s00125-015-3714-5. Epub 2015 Aug 12

  • Jeffery A, Streeter AJ, Hosking J, Wilkin TJ, Nelson SM. Anti-Müllerian hormone in children: a ten-year prospective longitudinal study (EarlyBird 39). J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Sep;28(9-10):1153-62. doi: 10.1515/jpem-2014-0517.

  • Metcalf BS, Hosking J, Jeffery AN, Henley WE, Wilkin TJ. Exploring the Adolescent Fall in Physical Activity: A 10-yr Cohort Study (EarlyBird 41). Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Oct;47(10):2084-92. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000644.

  • Pinkney J, Streeter A, Hosking J, Mostazir M, Jeffery A, Wilkin T. Adiposity, chronic inflammation, and the prepubertal decline of sex hormone binding globulin in children: evidence for associations with the timing of puberty (Earlybird 58). J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Sep;99(9):3224-32. doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-3902.

  • Jeffery AN, Metcalf BS, Hosking J, Mostazir MB, Voss LD, Wilkin TJ. Awareness of body weight by mothers and their children: repeated measures in a single cohort (EarlyBird 64). Child Care Health Dev. 2015 May;41(3):434-42. doi: 10.1111/cch.12167. Epub 2014 Jun 10. Erratum in: Child Care Health Dev. 2015 Nov;41(6):1251.

  • Voss LD, Hosking J, Metcalf BS, Jeffery AN, Frémeaux AE, Wilkin TJ. Metabolic risk in contemporary children is unrelated to socio-economic status: longitudinal study of a UK urban population (EarlyBird 42). Pediatr Diabetes. 2014 May;15(3):244-51. doi: 10.1111/pedi.634.

  • Clarke-Harris R, Wilkin TJ, Hosking J, Pinkney J, Jeffery AN, Metcalf BS, Godfrey KM, Voss LD, Lillycrop KA, Burdge GC. PGC1α promoter methylation in blood at 5-7 years predicts adiposity from 9 to 14 years (EarlyBird 50). Diabetes. 2014 Jul;63(7):2528-37. doi: 10.2337/db13-0671. Epub 2014 Mar 12.

  • Hyland ME, Jeffery AN, Wilkin TJ. A biological, latent variable model of health (EarlyBird 68). Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Aug;40:104-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2014.02.018. Epub 2014 Mar 6.

  • Jeffery AN, Hyland ME, Hosking J, Wilkin TJ. Mood and its association with metabolic health in adolescents: a longitudinal study, EarlyBird 65. Pediatr Diabetes. 2014 Dec;15(8):599-605. doi: 10.1111/pedi.12125. Epub 2014 Feb 19.

  • Hosking J, Metcalf BS, Jeffery AN, Streeter AJ, Voss LD, Wilkin TJ. Evidence of early beta-cell deficiency among children who show impaired fasting glucose:10-yr cohort study (EarlyBird 56). Pediatr Diabetes. 2013 Nov;14(7):481-9. doi:10.1111/pedi.12049. Epub 2013 May 31.

  • Mostazir M, Jeffery A, Voss L, Wilkin T. Gender-assortative waist circumference in mother-daughter and father-son pairs, and its implications. An 11-year longitudinal study in children (EarlyBird 59). Pediatr Obes. 2014 Jun;9(3):176-85. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2013.00157.x. Epub 2013 Apr 10.

  • Streeter AJ, Hosking J, Metcalf BS, Jeffery AN, Voss LD, Wilkin TJ. Body fat in children does not adversely influence bone development: a 7-year longitudinal study (EarlyBird 18). Pediatr Obes. 2013 Dec;8(6):418-27. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2012.00126.x. Epub 2013 Feb 28.