The strongest evidence yet that vulnerability to type 2 diabetes can begin in the womb has been provided in a new study.
The study, conducted in baboon primates, found that when mothers were even moderately undernourished while pregnant and breastfeeding, their offspring were consistently found to be prediabetic before adolescence. It is the first time that diabetes has been shown to have prenatal origins in a primate model.
According to Peter W. Nathanielsz, senior author of the study, "We pass more biological milestones before we are born and in the early weeks of life than at any other time."
Thus, "Poor nutrition at critical periods of development can hinder growth of essential organs such as the pancreas, which sees a significantly decrease in its ability to secrete insulin. Our study is the first to show in a primate that poor nutrition during fetal and early life can damage the pancreas and predispose one to type 2 diabetes."
The study has been published in the online edition of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.