Babies born weighing 2.7kg or less are likely to develop type 2 diabetes by more than a year earlier, new research finds. Previously, research projected that babies born underweight could develop type 2 diabetes when adults.
But an observational study of 48,000 births in the UK shows irrespective of other clinical factors such as sex, body mass index and cholesterol levels at diagnosis, a low birthweight is associated with increased susceptibility to type 2 diabetes at a younger age.
The study, released during the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting in Barcelona, Spain, is the first to show that underweight babies are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes at a younger age and have less severe obesity at the time of diabetes diagnosis.
“This link between low birth weight and age of onset of diabetes may reflect common genetic factors that both mediate birthweight and diabetes risk, or intrauterine factors such as nutrition or maternal smoking, or the combination of the two,” said Mr Christian Paulina, the study’s lead researcher from the UK's University of Dundee.
The researchers found that compared with a baby born weighing over 3.6kg, those born weighing less than 2.9kg were associated with younger age of onset of diabetes.
Meanwhile, a new analysis shows that people who eat mainly plant-based diets have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who follow these diets, but don’t stick to it.
In a study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers reported they analysed the evidence and found there was an association between adherence to healthy plant-based diets and reduced type 2 diabetes risk.
The new analysis — Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health — included nine studies that looked at the association and were published through February 2019, and had data from 307,099 participants with 23,544 cases of type 2 diabetes.
They analysed being loyal to an “overall” predominantly plant-based diet, which could include a mix of healthy plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, but also less healthy plant-based foods such as potatoes, white flour and sugar, and modest amounts of animal products.
Senior author of the Qi Sun, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard said: “Overall, these data highlighted the importance of adhering to plant-based diets to achieve or maintain good health, and people should choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, tofu, and other healthy plant foods as the cornerstone of such diets”.
The researchers also looked at “healthful” plant-based diets, which were defined as those emphasising healthy plant-based foods, with lower consumption of unhealthy plant-based foods.
The analysis found that people with the highest adherence to overall predominantly plant-based diets had a 23 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who did not adhere to it.
The researchers attributed this to plants causing insulin sensitivity and blood pressure, reducing weight gain and alleviating systemic inflammation, all of which can contribute to diabetes risk.