Study: Signs of Adult Diabetes Already Visible by Age 8 Years

June 22nd 2020

Early signs of being more susceptible to type 2 diabetes (T2D) as an adult can be seen in children as young as age 8 years, decades before it is likely to be diagnosed, according to researchers from the University of Bristol.

A new study shows that early signs of being more susceptible to type 2 diabetes (T2D) as an adult can be seen in children as young as age 8 years, decades before it is likely to be diagnosed, according to researchers from the University of Bristol.

Researchers looked at the effects of a genetic risk score for developing T2D as an adult on metabolism, measured from blood samples taken from participants in the study when they were aged 8, 16, 18, and 25 years.

Over 4000 participants were analyzed from the health study, “Children of the 90s,” which was established at the University of Bristol in the early 1990s. Researchers combined genetic information with an approach called metabolomics, involving measures of many small molecules in a blood sample to try and identify patterns that are specific to early stages of T2D development.

“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 lead investigator Josh Bell, MD, in a press release. “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.”

The study was conducted among younger people who were generally free of T2D and other chronic diseases to see how early in life the effects of being more susceptible to adult diabetes became visible. Certain types of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol were reduced at 8 years of age before other types of cholesterol including low-density lipoprotein were raised. Inflammation and amino acids were also elevated by 16 and 18 years of age, with these differences widening over time.

“We’re talking about the effects of susceptibility rather than of clinical disease itself,” Bell said in the press release. “This does not mean that young people ‘already have adult diabetes’; 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, according to the study authors.

“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,” Bell said.

REFERENCE

Signs of being prone to adult diabetes are already visible at age 8 years old. University of Bristol. https://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/news/2020/early-signs-of-diabetes.html. Published June 19, 2020. Accessed June 22, 2020.

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