Premature babies may be more likely to develop diabetes at some point in their life than other babies, according to researchers.

A US trial has shown babies born before 37 weeks are 21% more likely to develop type 1 diabetes and 26% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, within the study time period.

The trial involved gathering health data from nearly 4.2 million babies born in Sweden from 1973 to 2014. The researchers went on to monitor most of them until they turned at least 22.

The findings showed that 0.7% of the babies (27,512 participants) in the research developed type 1 diabetes and 0.1% (5,525 participants) were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The risks of developing a form of diabetes between the ages of 18 and 43 were 24% more likely for premature babies developing type 1 and 49% more likely for developing type 2.

The researchers found that the associations between preterm birth and type 2 diabetes were stronger among females. There was no significant gender difference found within the risk of type 1 diabetes.

Lead study author Dr. Casey Crump of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said: “Preterm birth interrupts normal development of multiple organ systems, including the pancreas where insulin-producing cells are formed, which may potentially contribute to later development of diabetes.”

Dr Crump added: “Parents should know that most children who were born preterm will have good health in childhood and adulthood. However, they also have modestly increased risks of diabetes that persist into adulthood.”

The study is published in the Diabetologia journal.

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