low birth weight

A genetic susceptibility to a low birth weight may have links with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes developing later in life, a new study has found.

Research was carried out at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana by Dr Tiange Wang and Dr Lu Qi that found there was an association between these two factors.

The study looked at 3,627 people with type 2 diabetes, and compared them to a control group of 12,974 people, taken from the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The researchers compared people on a genetic risk score (GRS) that they created to categorize participants dependent on five birth weight-related genetic variations.

The analysis found that for each one point increment of the GRS (out of a total 10 points) the risk of the patient developing type 2 diabetes later in life rose by six percent. Using a technique called Mendelian Randomization, the study authors found evidence supporting a causation between lower birth weight and diabetes risk.

The researchers reportedly said that “Evidence from both population and experimental studies has suggested that restricted early life development has long-term structural and functional influence on individuals’ predisposition to an increased risk of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

“However, to our knowledge, this study is the first to investigate the potential causal relation between low birth weight and risk of type 2 diabetes.”

It can’t be fully ruled out that the risk factors for low birth weight themselves are causing the increased risk of type 2 diabetes, as opposed to the low birth weight causing the increase in risk of the metabolic disease.

The authors concluded: “A genetically lowered birth weight was associated with increased susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. Our findings support a potential causal relation between birth weight and risk of type 2 diabetes, providing new evidence to support the role of intrauterine exposures in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes.”