Children as young as EIGHT can show signs of susceptibility to type 2 diabetes — about 50 years before it is usually diagnosed
- Experts studied around 5,000 young participants in a long-term health study
- They found that indicative shifts in ‘good’ cholesterol levels appear at age eight
- These are followed by inflammation and amino acid changes in the mid-teens
- The findings could help experts better understand how diabetes develops
Children as young as eight can show signs of susceptibility to type 2 diabetes — about 50 years before it is usually diagnosed, a study has found.
Experts from Bristol studied some 4,000 participants in a long-running health study, hunting for the point at which signs of diabetes vulnerability appear in blood tests.
They found that indicative changes in levels of so-called ‘good cholesterol’ can be seen as early as the age of eight — with other signs kicking in the mid-teens.
The findings may help experts understand how diabetes develops and potentially indicate new approaches to tackle the onset of the diseases and its complications.
Children as young as eight can show signs of susceptibility to type 2 diabetes — about 50 years before it is usually diagnosed, a study has found
‘We knew that diabetes doesn’t develop overnight. What we didn’t know is how early in life the first signs of disease activity become visible and what these early signs look like,’ said paper author Joshua Bell of the University of Bristol.
‘We addressed these by looking at the effects of being more genetically prone to type 2 diabetes in adulthood on measures of metabolism taken across early life.’
‘Diabetes is most common in older age, but we see signs of disease susceptibility very early on – about 50 years before it’s usually diagnosed.’
‘Knowing what these early signs look like widens our window of opportunity to intervene much earlier and stop diabetes before it becomes harmful.’
In their study, Dr Bell and colleagues tracked over 4,000 participants from the so-called ‘Children of the 90s’ — a long-running study which recruited a total of 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992 and monitored them and their children’s health.
The team combined genetic analysis of the participants with blood samples taken at the ages of 8, 16, 18 and 25 years — using the latter to measure the small molecules in the blood looking for patterns specific to the development of type 2 diabetes.
The young participants in the study were generally free of both type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Looking for how early signs of diabetes susceptibility can manifest, the team found that the level of certain types of high-density lipoproteins — sometimes called the ‘good’ cholesterol — were reduced at age eight before others were raised.
In addition, inflammation and amino acids were also seen to become elevated by the ages of 16 and 18 years old — with all these differences widening over time.
‘We’re talking about the effects of susceptibility rather than of clinical disease itself. This does not mean that young people “already have adult diabetes”,’ Dr Bell said.
‘These are subtle differences in the metabolism of young people who are more prone to developing it later in life.’
‘These findings help reveal the biology of how diabetes unfolds and what features may be targetable much earlier on to prevent the onset of disease and its complications,’ Dr Bell added.
‘This is important because we know that the harmful effects of blood glucose — such as on heart disease — are not exclusive to people with diagnosed diabetes but extend to a smaller degree to much of the population.’
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Diabetes Care.
In the UK about 90 per cent of diabetic adults have Type 2 diabetes
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
There are two main types of diabetes:
– Type 1, where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
– Type 2, where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1.
In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have Type 2.
Reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes can be achieved through healthy eating, regular exercise and achieving a healthy body weight.
The main symptoms of diabetes include: feeling very thirsty, urinating more frequently (particularly at night), feeling very tired, weight loss, and loss of muscle bulk.