Low Birth Weight Linked to Type 2 Diabetes in Black Women

August 29, 2014

Black women born with low birth weight are at increased risk for the later development of type 2 diabetes mellitus, research shows.

Black women born with low birth weight are at increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to the results of a recently published large-scale study.

As part of the ongoing Black Women’s Health Study the researchers found that type 2 diabetes was 40% more likely to develop in persons whose birth weight was less than 3.3 lb (1.5 kg). Baby girls weighing less than 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg) at birth had a 13% higher risk of the disease developing, the researchers reported.

Pertinent Points

- African American women born having very low or low birth weight are at increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus, a large-scale study found.

- BMI adjustment seemed to have no effect on the findings.

- The association could help explain why black women have higher incidence rates of type 2 diabetes, the authors suggested.

The association may contribute to understanding why African American women have higher rates of type 2 diabetes, the authors said, writing in Diabetes Care. They also noted that the association between low birth weight and type 2 diabetes remained even after adjustment for BMI.

"African American women are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and also have higher rates of low birth weight than white women," said Edward Ruiz-Narváez, ScD, one of the authors and assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health. "Our study shows a clear relationship between birth weight and diabetes that highlights the importance of further research for this at-risk group."

The study included 21,624 women who were followed over 16 years. There were 2,388 cases of diabetes among the women.

The authors pointed to two existing hypotheses for the association between low birth rate and diabetes in this population. One was that a lack of nutrition in infancy causes the body to reprogram itself to absorb more nutrients. The other was that certain gene mutations may impact the body’s ability to make insulin, contributing not only to low birth weights but also leading to higher risks for diabetes in adulthood.