First born could face a higher risk of developing diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on February 18, 2013

First born could face a higher risk of developing diabetes

First born children may be at greater risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure in later life as they have greater difficulty absorbing sugars into their body, new research has found. They also have higher daytime blood pressure than children who have older siblings, according to the study conducted at the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute in New Zealand.

The study is the first to document a 21% drop in insulin effectiveness and it points out that with family sizes falling in many countries a larger proportion of the population is made up of first born children. These are children who could develop conditions like type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke and hypertension.

‘Although birth order alone is not a predictor of metabolic or cardiovascular disease, being the first born child in a family can contribute to a person’s overall risk,’ said Wayne Cutfield of the University of Auckland. The study measured fasting lipid and hormonal profiles, height, weight and body composition in 85 healthy children between the ages of four and 11. The 32 first born children who participated in the study had a 21% reduction in insulin effectiveness, or sensitivity, and a 4 mmHg increase in blood pressure.

Low insulin sensitivity, also referred to as insulin resistance, is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but it can also lead to number of other health problems, including high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, heart disease and heart failure . The study also found that oldest and only children tended to be taller and slimmer than their later born counterparts, even after the height and body mass index of their parents was taken into account.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “Hello everyone. I get tested tomorrow for type 2 diabetes. My FBS tends to be around 91-110 and if I have a lot of sugars and carbs the night before it has gone as high as 157 (last year) and 127 (June). I am scared to death because I am 6 weeks pregnant. Everywhere I read on the net is birth defects and death for babies of mothers who didn’t know they had diabetes. Is anyone out there with experience in this? Is it too late for my baby and I have done damage already? I will do whatever it takes to make this healthy.”

The researchers think that the metabolic differences in younger siblings might be caused by physical changes in the mother’s uterus during her first pregnancy. As a result of the changes, nutrient flow to the foetus tends to increase during subsequent pregnancies. For this study, researchers focused on children because puberty and adult lifestyle can affect insulin sensitivity. ‘Our results indicate first born children have these risk factors, but more research is needed to determine how that translates into adult cases of diabetes, hypertension and other conditions,’ Cutfield said.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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