By Nicole Ostrow
Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Babies who weighed less than average at birth were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life than those who were born weighing more, an analysis of previous research found.
A person’s lifetime risk of developing diabetes decreased for each 2.2 pounds they weighed over lower-weight babies, said study author Donald Yarbrough. The report in tomorrow’s Journal of the American Medical Association didn’t examine the risk that babies born at the heaviest weights, 8.8 pounds or more, faced for adult diabetes, he said.
About 23.6 million Americans, or 7.8 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. More studies are needed to determine why those born at lower weights have a higher risk of the disease, Yarbrough said.
“Birth weight is a crude marker for something that’s going on,” said Yarbrough, medical director of bariatric surgery at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield, Oregon, in a telephone interview today. “The early inter-uterine environment plays a crucial role in proper development of the organs, which can lead to chronic disease many years later in life.”
Type 2 diabetes, which in adults is linked to obesity, lack of exercise and older age, accounts for as much as 95 percent of diabetes cases in the U.S. Those with the condition don’t produce enough insulin or their cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is needed for the body to use sugar for energy.