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Birth weight and Type 2 diabetes

An international team of researchers have found a genetic link between low birth weight and the risk of going on to develop Type 2 diabetes in later life.

The team analysed over 38,000 Europeans from 19 studies of pregnancy and birth and found that two genetic variants showed strong associations with birth weight. The discovery could well lead to a deeper understanding of how to manage growth problems in pregnancy.

Research provides important clues

It had previously been discovered that babies who take on a certain genetic variant in a gene called ADCY5 are at a 25 per cent higher risk of future Type 2 diabetes than babies who do not inherit it. This latest study shows that the babies who inherit the genetic variant also weigh less at birth.

Mark McCarthy, one of the lead researchers from the University of Oxford, said: "It was a surprise to see such strong genetic effects for a characteristic, such as birth weight... these discoveries provide important clues to the mechanisms responsible for the control of growth in early life and may lead us to a better understanding of how to manage growth problems during pregnancy."

Exciting further evidence

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research Diabetes UK, said: “This research adds exciting further evidence supporting the idea that low birth weight and Type 2 diabetes are linked in some cases and will no doubt provide important clues about the development of Type 2 diabetes in the future.

"It is another excellent example of the importance of genetic studies in helping us understand complex scientific issues and hopefully produce new methods to prevent conditions like Type 2 diabetes developing."

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