Children as young as eight are showing signs they could be susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes in later life, researchers have said.

More then 4,000 children have been monitored for the study, which involved using a genetic risk score to determine each child’s type 2 diabetes risk. Each participant had their bloods taken aged 8, 16, 18, and 25 years.

The team wanted to see at what age signs of type 2 diabetes might occur in children and young people.

Lead researcher Dr Joshua Bell, an epidemiologist from the University of Bristol, said: “We knew that [type 2] diabetes doesn’t develop overnight. What we didn’t know is how early in life the first signs of disease activity become visible and what these early signs look like.

“We addressed these by looking at the effects of being more genetically prone to type 2 diabetes in adulthood on measures of metabolism taken across early life. This would not have been possible without the Children of the 90s study.

Diabetes is most common in older age, but we see signs of disease susceptibility very early on—about 50 years before it’s usually diagnosed. Knowing what these early signs look like widens our window of opportunity to intervene much earlier and stop diabetes before it becomes harmful.”

The findings found that the young people who were deemed to be at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes had low ­levels of so-called good cholesterol and high levels of bad cholesterol.

As they grew into adolescence, chemicals associated with chronic inflammation increased.

Dr Bell added: “We’re talking about the effects of susceptibility rather than of clinical disease itself. This does not mean that young people ‘already have adult diabetes’; these are subtle differences in the metabolism of young people who are more prone to developing it later in life.

“These findings help reveal the biology of how diabetes unfolds and what features may be targetable much earlier on to prevent the onset of disease and its complications. This is important because we know that the harmful effects of blood glucose, such as on heart disease, are not exclusive to people with diagnosed diabetes but extend to a smaller degree to much of the population.”

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