A new study that confirms that underweight babies are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes later in life also identifies factors associated with that increased risk.
The findings may help pinpoint which physical processes are disrupted by a low birth weight, eventually resulting in diabetes, the Brown University researchers said.
Possible reasons include insulin resistance, problems with blood vessel lining and high blood pressure.
Read: Low birth weight may increase diabetes risk
The study authors looked at more than 1,200 women with type 2 diabetes and nearly 1,800 without the disease.
Those who had been born with a low birth weight – less than 6 pounds – were 1.27 times more likely to have diabetes than those with a birth weight of 6 to 8 pounds, and 2.15 times more likely to have diabetes than those with a birth weight of 8 to 10 pounds.
Insulin resistance and other factors
Factors associated with increased risk of diabetes among those with a low birth weight included insulin resistance; problems with blood vessel linings; and high systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in a blood pressure reading, according to the report.
The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.
Read: Type 2 diabetes in children: an emerging epidemic
"We are trying to understand what proportion of the risk attributable to low birth weight can indeed be explained by these biochemical intermediates, to understand the relative importance of each pathway," senior study author Dr. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Brown, said in a university news release.
The study was funded, in part, through a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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