Birthweight strongly linked to type 2 diabetes risk in adulthood

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In a new study from the National University of Singapore, researchers found that a birth weight of 2.5 kg or more is strongly linked to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

It is linked to lower circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1 for short, a hormone similar to insulin that affects childhood growth and energy metabolism in adults.

Compelling evidence indicates that susceptibility to type 2 diabetes over the life course is determined jointly by risk factors in both early life and adulthood.

In the study, the team used data from 112,736 women and 68,354 men taking part in the UK Biobank study.

Blood was checked for IGF-1, cholesterol, triglycerides and an indicator of inflammation, C-reactive protein. And repeat measures of IGF-1 were available from 17,699 participants.

During an average monitoring period of nearly 10 years, 3299 people developed type 2 diabetes.

The team found participants with lower levels of IGF-1 tended to be older and more likely to live in a deprived area. They were also more likely to have lifestyle and clinical risk factors for diabetes.

Nevertheless, a clear inverse association emerged between IGF-1 levels and type 2 diabetes: the lower the IGF-1 level, the higher was the risk of type 2 diabetes.

But birthweight significantly altered this association, although only for those whose weight was 2.5 kg or more at birth, and only in men.

Compared with those in the lowest 20% of IGF-1 levels, the odds of type 2 diabetes were 14% lower for those in the second-lowest 20%, and up to 36% lower for those in the highest 20% of IGF-1 levels.

The findings held true, irrespective of any genetic predisposition to birthweight.

They highlight the importance of early-life risk factors in the development of life course prevention strategies targeting IGF-1 and type 2 diabetes.

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The study is published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. One author of the study is Lu Qi.

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