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Underweight babies at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes

Research reveals that babies born underweight are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes in later life.

Diabetes UK-funded research looked at 30 published studies of over 152,000 people, more than 6,000 of whom had Type 2 diabetes. They found that the lighter the baby, the higher the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

A baby born weighing just under 2.5kg (5½ lbs) had a 25 per cent higher risk compared to one weighing 3.5kg (71b 11oz). 2.5kg is the usual definition of low birth weight and the average birth weight of babies born in the UK is 3.3kg (7lb 4oz).

Low birth weight theory

“This research adds further evidence to previous studies supporting the low birth weight theory," Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.

"It is also important to remember that at the other end of the scale, research also shows that overweight babies are also at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Previous studies show that there are increasing numbers of expectant women who are overweight or have gestational diabetes (a temporary form of the condition that develops during pregnancy), who are more likely to have heavier babies.

Risk factors

“There is a lot of research which is trying to determine how our early years can affect our risk of Type 2 diabetes. What we do know is that people are at increased risk if they have at least two risk factors - aged over 40, overweight or have a large waistline and have a family history of the condition. We also know that doing physical activity and eating a healthy, balanced diet can reduce a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 64 per cent.”

The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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