COUCH-potato children as young as eight have tell-tale signs showing they’ll become diabetic adults.
Researchers said a poor diet and lack of exercise makes them susceptible to the disease decades before it is usually diagnosed.
Their findings could help doctors nip it in the bud before it becomes life-threatening.
Researcher Dr Joshua Bell said: “We knew 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.”
The University of Bristol researchers investigated the emergence of type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity, usually in middle-age, but preventable.
They took blood samples from 4,761 people when they were eight, 16, 18 and 25.
Those most at risk had low levels of so-called good cholesterol and high levels of bad cholesterol.
By their mid to late-teens there was also an increase in chemicals linked to chronic inflammation. All the differences widened over time.
Dr Bell said the markers were clear signs of susceptibility to developing diabetes later in life. He added: “We see signs of susceptibility very early on — about 50 years before it is usually diagnosed.
“It’s remarkable we can see signs of adult diabetes in the blood from such a young age. These findings help reveal the biology of how diabetes unfolds.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the disease – accounting for between 85 and 95 per cent of all cases, according to Diabetes UK.
It develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin.
It can also be triggered when the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly.
Typically, people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from the age of 40, but there are some exceptions.
In people from southern Asia the disease can appear as early as 25.
And the condition is becoming more prevalent in children, teenagers of all ethnicities.
Experts suggest the rising rates of type 2 diabetes is due to the obesity epidemic – a key cause of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be treated with drugs, and many people can reverse their condition by adopting a healthy lifestyle – a healthy diet and exercise.
“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 confirm fears of rising levels of diabetes among young people — 745 were treated for the condition in 2018/19, up by nearly half from five years earlier.
Of the under-25s who received treatment for the condition, 85 per cent were obese, while nearly half also had high blood pressure.
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