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Diabetes Spurred By Adult Lifestyles

Study casts doubt on 'fetal-environment' theory

MONDAY, July 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Adult behaviors have more influence on type 2 diabetes risk than childhood risk factors such as birth weight and nutrition, according to a British study.

The findings run counter to long-held beliefs that fetal development predisposes individuals to diabetes in later life.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne examined long-term data on 412 women and men, and concluded that overweight and obese adults were more likely to have increased insulin resistance, a risk marker for type 2 diabetes. The data came from the Thousand Families Study, which has tracked the health of individuals born in Newcastle in 1947 throughout their lives.

Childhood factors -- which were previously believed to have a significant effect on diabetes risk -- were found to have only a limited impact, the researchers report in the current issue of Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews.

"Previous studies have suggested that the risk of poor health in later life is programmed by impaired development in the womb, and that poor growth in fetal and infant life is associated with impaired insulin secretion and sensitivity," study leader Dr. Mark Pearce, of Newcastle University's School of Clinical Medical Sciences, said in a prepared statement. "However, not all of these studies have had access to complete data on late life."

"Our study, which has examined people from birth to adulthood, suggests that the life you lead as an adult has the biggest influence on your health, in terms of diabetes risk, in later life," Pearce said.

More information

The American Diabetes Association offers this diabetes risk test.

SOURCE: University of Newcastle upon Tyne, news release, July 5, 2005
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