Early indications of adult type 2 diabetes found in children aged eight – study

Scientists have discovered one of the earliest indications of adult type 2 diabetes in children as young as eight, decades before it is commonly diagnosed.

Researchers from the University of Bristol analysed genetic information known to increase the chances of type 2 diabetes and measures of metabolism in thousands of children in the UK.

They found that being more susceptible to type 2 diabetes affected a young person’s levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, amino acids, and a chronic inflammatory trait measured in the blood.

Certain HDL lipids were some of the earliest indicators of susceptibility, and researchers hope the metabolic features could be targeted to prevent young people from developing the disease.

Dr Joshua Bell, from the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, said: “It’s remarkable that we can see signs of adult diabetes in the blood from such a young age – this is about 50 years before it’s commonly diagnosed.”

“This is not a clinical study; nearly all participants were free of diabetes and most will not go on to develop it.

“This is about liability to disease and how genetics can tell us something about how the disease develops.”

The genetic study is being presented at this year’s European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) annual meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

The researchers tracked more than 4,500 participants of a birth cohort established in Bristol in the early 1990s.

They measured 229 metabolic traits on the healthy participants four times at ages eight, 15, 18 and 25, to see how early diabetes susceptibility is visible.

They found that levels of HDL cholesterol were reduced at age eight, while inflammatory glycoprotein acetyls and amino acids were elevated by the mid to late teens.

Dr Bell, who co-led the research, added: “If we want to prevent diabetes, we need to know how it starts.

“Genetics can help with that, but our aim here is to learn how diabetes develops, not to predict who will and will not develop it.

“Other methods may help with prediction but won’t necessarily tell us where to intervene.

“Knowing what early features of type 2 diabetes look like could help us to intervene much earlier to halt progression to full blown diabetes and its complications.”

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