Babies born during famine more likely to develop diabetes

Being born during a famine increases the risk of developing diabetes later in life, according to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study found that people who were born during one of three 20th century famines were somehow significantly more likely to have metabolic problems than people not born during famines.

Sufficient nutrition during early life key

Studying 8 million people in Austria, researchers found that 325,000 people were treated for diabetes in 2006 and 2007 who were born between 1917 and 2007.
Different regions of the country - where famines had either been experienced or not been experienced - correlated with fluctuations in diabetes prevalence.

Diabetes was almost non-existent in regions that had not been affected by famines, while it was significantly higher in regions that had been challenged by food scarcity.

One of the Austrian famines occurred from 1918-1919, and people born during this time period were shown to have a 40 percent higher chance of having diabetes when born in the years 1919-1921.

Diabetes rates linked to economic wealth of a region

Researchers say that diabetes rates in the study were directly linked to the economic wealth in different regions. The findings also suggest that sufficient nutrition is a cornerstone of pre-natal health and early childhood.

"Our results might be of relevance for establishing higher awareness in the health system for those born in high-risk years, and underline the importance of ensuring sufficient nutrition in prenatal and early stages of life," wrote study author Stefan Thurner and colleagues.

Source: PNAS.org

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