The risk of developing type 2 diabetes for South Asians begins immediately at birth, according to a new study.
South Asians are reported to be as much as six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to Europeans, and genes are thought to play a big part in this risk.
Canadian researchers at McMaster University compared roughly 800 pregnant South Asian and white Caucasian women in the South Asian Birth Cohort Study (START).
The babies born to South Asian mothers were significantly smaller, but had more adipose or fat tissue and a higher waist circumference, which are known risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Principal investigator Sonia Anand, McMaster University, said: “The increase we observed in fat tissue is clearly influenced by South Asian ethnicity, the mother’s body fat and high blood sugar levels.”
The researchers concluded that South Asian women could reduce the risk of diabetes developing in their own children by minimising their risk of gestational diabetes and controlling weight gain during pregnancy.
“South Asian pregnant women should be considered high risk for gestational diabetes and routinely screened in pregnancy,” added Anand. “Prevention may be an important way to break the transmission among generations.”
An additional 1,000 South Asian mothers and their babies have since been recruited by McMaster researchers in an expansion of the START study. They aim to examine if growth in the first year of a baby’s life could impact the future risk of elevated glucose levels.
The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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