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Low birth weight link to diabetes

Scientists have found a genetic link between low birth-weight and adulthood diabetes.

A team, including experts from the University, found two genetic regions that influence birth-weight, one of which is also associated with type 2 diabetes.

It has been known for some time that small babies are more likely to get the illness and that a mother’s diet and nutrition affect her child's weight and future risk of disease, in a process known as "programming".

But this is the first time a genetic link has been firmly established.

The research, published in Nature Genetics, was based on 19 European studies of pregnancy and birth.

It revealed that one variant in a gene called ADCY5 was linked to both birth-weight and type 2 diabetes.

Health risk

People who inherit two risk copies of this variant are 25 per cent more likely to get diabetes in adulthood than those who inherit two non-risk copies, and they weigh less at birth.

Nearly one in ten Europeans inherit two copies of a variant in each of the genetic regions identified and are on average 113g lighter at birth than those who inherit one or no copy.

The weight difference is around the same as if a mother smokes four to five cigarettes per day in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Finding two genes that decrease birth-weight is the first exciting step to unravelling the well known associations between birth-weight and killer diseases in later life. These genes will begin to reveal the biology behind how low birth-weight increases the risk of adult-onset diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure

Dr Jim WilsonRoyal Society University Research Fellow at the University