Preemies more likely to have insulin resistance as kids

Babies born pre-term, often called preemies, are more likely to have problems with insulin metabolism in early childhood, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

About one in nine live births are preterm in the US, the researchers report, and one in five live births among African-Americans are preterm. The evidence of the new study suggests that preterm infants may have more risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes later in life than babies born at a normal weight.

But while other studies support the idea that preterm birth can result in metabolic complications, it's not clear whether these complications happen in utero or in early childhood, the authors said.

Insulin levels related to gestational age at birth

The research team studied 1,358 children who were born between 1998 and 2010, testing their plasma insulin levels at birth and in early childhood at random intervals.

They found that insulin levels were inversely associated with a child's gestational age at birth and in childhood.

"These findings provide additional evidence that preterm birth (and perhaps early term birth as well) may be a risk factor for the future development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes," the authors wrote in JAMA.

According to Dr. Mark Hanson, from University Hospital Southampton, since the study included a largely minority and urban population, more research on how preterm birth affects childhood obesity and other health challenges that face these populations could assist in developing better early life interventions to prevent diabetes and other health risks.

Source: JAMA Network Journals

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