EarlyBird Interim Results Are Useful

Celtic Knots

As Childhood Obesity News has discussed, the EarlyBird Diabetes Study, being conducted in Great Britain, has been recording the physical attributes of about 300 children over a period of several years. They are zeroing in on the problem of insulin resistance, which has everything to do with diabetes, and a lot to do with cardiovascular disease, too. As the “Study Protocol” page explains:

The long-term design of the EarlyBird study is fundamental to its strength. The real value of such a study lies with the predictions it can make, relating early behaviors to later outcome. The study is offering evidence from contemporary children which health strategists need to build a rational public health program for the prevention of diabetes.

Starting from age 5, the same group of kids has been followed and tested every year in a number of ways. At the beginning, of course, all the birth weights were noted. Annually, the researchers measure their standard vital signs and draw blood to test for cholesterol and glucose. They measure height and weight, and calculate the Body Mass Index, and make comparisons with standard growth curves. The children’s levels of physical activity and energy expenditure are taken into account. Three of the subjects have already developed diabetes, while some are “precariously close.”

Despite the fact that their work is far from done, the researchers have already made many interesting discoveries, which are listed and summarized on the page titled “Key Findings from EarlyBird.” They believe that Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the same disorder — insulin resistance — advancing at different speeds. Children with a certain genetic background can develop insulin resistance so quickly and completely that for a long time, it looked like a different illness altogether.

But now, there is the “accelerator hypothesis.” The informational page says:

The clinical convergence in children of the two syndromes once known as type 1 and type 2 diabetes has caused considerable puzzlement to diabetologists and epidemiologists alike. The accelerator hypothesis points to the insulin resistance of childhood obesity as the load which accelerates the loss of beta cells and the onset of diabetes. Children with reactive immune response (HLA) genes respond fastest.

In general, diabetes still holds many mysteries. But the EarlyBird Study has accumulated a great deal of certainty about one thing: Obesity somehow leads to insulin resistance. In their phraseology, weight gain is the “missing link.” To put it simply and starkly:

The incidence of type 1 diabetes is rising as fast as type 2, and both are rising in parallel with obesity. Obesity leads to increasing insulin resistance which underlies both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Obesity and insulin resistance — they are tied together like a Celtic knot in a complicated relationship. Since nobody knows how to curb insulin resistance, it makes sense to start at the other end of the tangle and try to prevent childhood obesity.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Study Protocol,” EarlyBirdDiabetes.org
Source: “Study: Kids’ Weight Gain Comes Early,” intelihealth.com, 01/05/09
Source: “Key Findings from EarlyBird,” EarlyBirdDiabetes.org
Image by Cre8iveDoodles (Diane MacKillop).

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