Nestlé Research and the University of Plymouth have revealed new insights into the factors that predispose children to developing type 2 diabetes in adult life. This was part of a first-of-its-kind study called EarlyBird that followed 300 healthy children in Plymouth, UK, for 15 years to determine who would become at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and why.
The EarlyBird researchers monitored the children from five years of age to early adulthood to explore how the metabolism changes during growth. The findings, published in a series of peer-reviewed scientific publications, shed new light on the biological and physiological factors that are relevant for metabolic health in childhood.
The latest results published in Diabetes Care show that the earliest event leading to prediabetes (the initial asymptomatic condition where the first signs of diabetes are already present), is an early dysfunction of the beta-cell, independent of body weight. Beta-cells in the pancreas produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. They further showed that this beta-cell dysfunction was associated with the presence of genetic factors previously associated with type 2 diabetes in adults. This discovery could lead to the early identification of children that are at risk of future type 2 diabetes.
Professor Jon Pinkney from the University of Plymouth stated, "The rapidly rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes is one of the biggest global health challenges, and there is an urgent need to develop effective strategies for early intervention and prevention. The research partnership between University of Plymouth and Nestlé has shown how the risks of future type 2 diabetes can be predicted in childhood. This opens up the possibility of individualized advice and early intervention to reduce the risks of future type 2 diabetes."
"In this study we show that beta-cell dysfunction is an early event in the onset of pre-diabetes in children and that this effect is body weight independent”, said François-Pierre Martin, an expert in metabolism who led the collaboration at Nestlé Research. "However, we also report in this study that subsequent weight gain during puberty aggravates the progression from prediabetes to diabetes. This stresses the importance of lifestyle and nutritional interventions in childhood to reduce the risks to develop diabetes."
Jörg Hager, a genetics expert at Nestlé Research who designed the genetic part of the study said: "Our research has important implications for potentially identifying children at risk of developing prediabetes through genetic markers. The new findings will allow us to develop new nutritional approaches that target the insulin response to a meal, and the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar level."
In 2018, Nestlé launched its global initiative Nestlé for Healthier Kids, with the ambition to help 50 million children lead healthier lives. This knowledge supports this ambition by enabling the understanding of what is crucial for a child healthy growth and development.
Read more on Nestlé for Healthier Kids
- Jerome Carayol, Joanne Hosking, Jonathan Pinkney, Julien Marquis, Aline Charpagne, Sylviane Metairon, Alison Jeffery, Jörg Hager, Francois-Pierre Martin. Genetic Susceptibility Determines β-Cell Function and Fasting Glycemia Trajectories Throughout Childhood: A 12-Year Cohort Study (EarlyBird 76). Diabetes Care 2020 Jan.
- Joanne Hosking, François‐Pierre, Jonathan Pinkney, Alison Jeffery, Ornella Cominetti, Laeticia Da Silva, Sebastiano Collino, Martin Kussmann, Jorg Hager, Francois‐Pierre Martin. Insulin Resistance during normal child growth and development is associated with a distinct blood metabolic phenotype (Earlybird 72). Pediatric Diabetes 2019 June.
- Mario Lauria, Maria Persico, Nikola Dordevic, Ornella Cominetti, Alice Matone, Joanne Hosking, Alison Jeffery, Jonathan Pinkney, Laeticia Da Silva, Corrado Priami, Ivan Montoliu & François-Pierre Martin. Consensus Clustering of temporal profiles for the identification of metabolic markers of pre-diabetes in childhood (EarlyBird 73). Scientific Reports 2018 Jan.