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Low Birth Weights May Put Black Women at Risk for Diabetes

Study found association regardless of their current weight.

Low Birth Weights May Put Black Women at Risk for Diabetes

THURSDAY, Aug. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Being born at a low birth weight puts black women at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

The findings may partly explain high diabetes rates among black Americans, a population that has a high prevalence of low birth weight, the researchers added.

Their study of more than 21,000 black women found that those with a low birth weight were 13 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with a normal birth weight. The risk of diabetes was 40 percent higher in those with a very low birth weight.

Low birth weight was defined as less than 5.5 pounds and very low birth weight as less than 3.3 pounds.

A woman's body weight did not appear to affect the link between low birth weight and increased diabetes risk. Those who weren't obese still had a higher risk of diabetes if they had a low or very low birth weight.

While the study found an association between birth weight and diabetes risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

The researchers pointed to two possible reasons for the association: When a newborn body lacks nutrition, it reprograms itself so it can absorb more of what nutrition it does get and that could raise the risk for diabetes later in life; and certain gene mutations may affect the body's ability to make insulin, which would lead to a low birth weight and an increased chance for diabetes in adulthood.

The study was published Aug. 21 in the journal Diabetes Care.

"African-American women are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and also have higher rates of low birth weight than white women," Edward Ruiz-Narvaez, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, said in a university news release.

"Our study shows a clear relationship between birth weight and diabetes that highlights the importance of further research for this at-risk group," he added.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about type 2 diabetes.

SOURCE: Boston University, news release, Aug. 21, 2014

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