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03-07-2012 | Diabetes | Article

Newborn size may predict paternal diabetes risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: The parents of newborn babies who are small are at increased risk for developing diabetes later in life, suggest findings from a study of an Indian population.

"This suggests a genetic or epigenetic link between diabetes risk in either parent and reduced fetal growth in their children," say Sargoor Veena (Holdsworth Memorial Hospital, Mysore, Karanataka, India) and colleagues.

Several studies have reported that low offspring birth size is linked to an elevated risk for diabetes, but such studies have been mainly limited to birth weight, which reflects a crude composite of bone, fat, muscle, and visceral mass, remark Veena and team.

"These components may have different relationships with long-term health outcomes in the parents," they say.

In the current study, the researchers analyzed data from The Mysore Parthenon Study, including detailed neonatal anthropometric data as well as 9.5 year follow-up data on parents' glycemic parameters.

As reported in Diabetes Care, 62 (15.6%) of 398 fathers and 22 (4.7%) of 469 mothers who were not diabetic at the time of pregnancy, developed diabetes.

There was a significant inverse relationship between measurements of neonatal size and incidence of diabetes among parents.

Parents of babies in the highest versus lowest quintile for birth weight, mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC), arm muscle area, and tricep and subscapular skinfold thickness were at a significantly decreased risk for incident diabetes, at odds ratios 0.3, 0.6, 0.7, and 0.7, respectively.

"This is consistent with the fetal insulin hypothesis…common genetic factors that either increase insulin resistance or reduce insulin secretion, leading to both low birth weight and disease in later life," write Veena and team.

In addition, birth weight, MUAC, abdominal circumference, and skinfold thickness showed clear U-shaped associations with diabetes prevalence among mothers.

"This suggests either that predictable changes in the mother during pregnancy (other than her glucose concentrations) increase fetal adiposity or that fetal adiposity induces maternal diabetes," say the researchers.

The team says the study "adds to very few other studies that have shown these two effects so clearly."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Sally Robertson