Study: Children, Young Adults With Down Syndrome Have 4 Times Greater Chance of Diabetes

Investigators find that individuals aged 5 to 14 years with the genetic disorder are also at greater risk for TD2.

Children and young adults with Down syndrome are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to the findings of a study published in Diabetes Care.

The study, by Queen Mary University of London and King’s College London, examined just under 10,000 individuals with Down syndrome and almost 40,000 individuals without. Data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink, from 1990 to 2020, were used.

This is the first time that investigators examined the incidence of diabetes and obesity in Down syndrome across one of the disorder’s biggest cohorts.

“This is the largest study ever conducted in Down syndrome patients to show that they have unique needs with regards to diabetes and obesity, and that screening and intervention, including a healthy diet and physical activity, at younger ages is required compared to the general population,” Andre Strydom, MRCPsych, MSc, PhD, professor in intellectual disabilities at King’s College London, said in a statement. “The results will help to inform the work of NHSE's LeDeR program to reduce inequalities and premature mortality in people with Down syndrome and learning disabilities.”

Investigators found that children aged 5 to 14 years with Down dyndrome have about a 10 times greater chance of having type 2 diabetes (T2D) than children without. They think, based on the results, that children with Down syndrome must be more closely monitored for early signs of diabetes, excess weight, and obesity.

Investigators emphasize that identifying diabetes as early as possible helps individuals with the complications that diabetes can bring later in life.

Despite the findings, investigators found that individuals with Down syndrome were typically diagnosed with diabetes much earlier. The average age of diagnosis of diabetes for an individual with Down syndrome was aged 38 years compared to with aged 53 years for those without the genetic disorder.

Excess body weight and genetics could be the reason behind the increased risk, investigators said.

Individuals with Down syndrome were found to have a higher body mass index and reach its peak at an earlier age, which increases the risk of T2D at a younger age.

Additionally, investigators found that there was also an increased risk of T1D, because of extra chromosomes and issues with the immune system for those with Down syndrome.

“This study highlights the importance of early screening for diabetes and weight issues in [individuals] with Down syndrome, especially children and young adults,” Li Chan, PhD, reader in Molecular Endocrinology and Metabolism and Consultant Pediatric Endocrinologist at Queen Mary University of London, said in the statement.

“Currently there is a sizeable gap in research into the condition, which affects around 40,000 people in the [United Kingdom],” Chan said. “To help plug this gap in knowledge, we are conducting further research into how genetics affects a[n individual] with Down syndrome’s predisposition to diabetes and obesity and hope to shed further light on this important medical issue."

Reference

Children and young adults with Down syndrome four times more likely to have diabetes. News release. Science Daily. October 4, 2022. Accessed October 17, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221004104957.htm

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