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A child’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a young age is related to whether the mother had diabetes while pregnant, and what type of diabetes she had, according to researchers at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM).

The team studied the medical records of Manitobans born between 1984 and 2008, from birth until 30 years of age: 89,231 were First Nations and 378,619 were non-First Nations. For each group, the researchers looked for those whose mothers had had either type 2 diabetes while pregnant or gestational diabetes (a temporary form of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy).

People of First Nations descent who had been exposed to type 2 diabetes while in the womb had the greatest likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes before the age of 30. (First Nations children as young as four years have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—a disease usually diagnosed in Canadian youth only when they are in their teens or 20s.) Among First Nations individuals, those whose mothers had gestational diabetes had a smaller but still increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a young age, compared to those whose mothers did not have either gestational or type 2 diabetes. However, says Dr. Brandy Wicklow, a scientist at CHRIM and the study’s lead author, it is recognized that this health gap is more likely to be related to historical barriers to a safe and healthy environment, such as adequate food, housing, water and income, which disproportionately affect First Nations people.

The study was published in the June 2018 issue of JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers’ recommendations?

Women should be tested for type 2 diabetes early in their pregnancy regardless of their ethnic background. Also, pediatricians should start screening for diabetes in First Nations children early—around ages 8 to 10 if their mothers had type 2 diabetes during pregnancy,

says Dr. Wicklow. (For more research focused on Indigenous Canadians, see Empowering Indigenous Youth.

This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Winter 2019.

Author: Elizabeth McCammon

Category Tags: Research;

Region: National

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