Children with a strong family history of type 2 diabetes and/or heart disease could have an increased risk of developing both conditions later in life, a study finds.
Researchers from the Netherlands found these children had significantly higher cholesterol levels than children with no family history of heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes.
One known sign of having an increased risk of heart disease is if you have high total cholesterol to HDL ratio. People with diabetes are also more likely to experience cardiovascular problems. Currently, though, little is known about the role of family history of these conditions in relationship to adverse cardiometabolic markers in offspring.
This new study was conducted by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, which investigated if the occurrence of both conditions across parents and grandparents resulted in measurable risk factors in children.
A population-based birth cohort of 1,374 children was invited to participate in the study, all of whom received a clinical assessment at age 12 and whose families could provide parental reports on their family history of disease.
These reports included the history and age of onset of stroke, diabetes or myocardial infarction for both the biological parents and grandparents of the children.
The children were measured for BMI, waist circumference, cholesterol, blood pressure and HbA1c. Other factors that were analysed included sex, ethnicity and the age, BMI and education level of their parents.
Almost a third of the children had a strong family history of type 2 diabetes and or/heart disease, and these kids had a higher ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol compared to those without such family history.
However, children with a moderate family history of the two conditions did not share these cardiometabolic markers, and adjustment for BMI of the child and their parents did not affect the findings amongst the children with a strong family history of the conditions.
The authors wrote: “A strong family history of MI or [type 2] diabetes was independently associated with unfavourable cardiometabolic markers specific to those diseases.
“Future studies may especially focus on lifestyle behaviours that are passed on from one generation to the next since these may account for (part of) the association of diabetes/CVD [cardiovascular disease] in multiple generations with cardiometabolic risk in the offspring.”
The findings appear in the online journal Diabetologia.

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