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Poor prenatal nutrition permanently damages function of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas

the third week, restricted to only half the amount. It had a dramatic effect. At birth, their babies weighed 23 percent less than the control group.

After delivery, all babies nursed and all mothers ate a full diet. "By the time the babies were weaned, at three weeks, the low-birth-weight group had caught up with the others, something we see in human babies too," said Dr. Patti. "They looked and acted the same. There was nothing outwardly different about them." The two groups of offspring ate the same chow diet, maintained a similar weight, and neither group was allowed to become overweight, eliminating this common risk factor for diabetes. The only difference was that the mothers had been fed differently during the final week.

As the young mice matured, the researchers tested their blood glucose (sugar) after meals. At age 2 months, the results were similar between the two groups. But over time, differences began to unfold. When 4 months old (comparable to human adolescence), the low-birth-weight babies began showing higher levels of blood glucose. "By 6 months, these levels had spiked abnormally, to 500 mg/dl -- the equivalent of serious, full-blown diabetes in humans," Dr. Patti said.

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot make the hormone insulin at all; about 1 million Americans must control this form by taking insulin injections. In type 2 -- a disorder affecting an estimated 18 million Americans -- the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or the body's cells develop a resistance to its effect. Without insulin, glucose cannot get into cells to provide energy.

Normally, insulin levels rise or drop in response to glucose levels, keeping everything in balance. But diabetes is a complex metabolic disorder with numerous players such as high levels of blood glucose, cholesterol and other lipids. "The challenge is to figure out which factors are a primary cause of diabetes and which are a consequence, said Dr. Patti. "In our study, w
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Source:Joslin Diabetes Center


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