According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) three out of 25 babies are born prematurely in the U.S.
A Swedish study recently discovered preemies have a small increased risk of diabetes when they grow up. The study, published in Diabetes Care, noted preemies had a less than one percent higher risk of developing diabetes during their lifetime. The increased risk of diabetes applied to those born just a week or two early as well as those born very prematurely.
The study followed 630,000 babies born between 1973-1979. 28,000 out of the 630,000 were born prematurely. By the time the preemies reached their 20s, 15 out of the 1000 children developed diabetes. Only 12 out of the 1000 born full-term developed diabetes.
Researchers used a national prescription database to track the use of diabetes medications. Most of the prescriptions were for insulin without oral medications. The prescriptions indicated Type 1 diabetes was the most common type of diabetes.
Researchers believe poor nutrition while in the womb and after birth affects the metabolism. Also, hormones alter how glucose is processed. However, the study did not look at preemies' nutrition before and after birth.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Casey Crump, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, said doctors need to "recognize that preterm birth is a risk factor for diabetes in later life."
Crump, who co-authored the study, recommends those who are born prematurely need to focus on avoiding risk factors for diabetes. Those factors include hypertension, lack of exercise and being overweight.
Also, Crump said, ʺThe study was done in Sweden but the findings could have a large health impact elsewhere.ʺ
The premature rate of births in Sweden is approximately a third of the rate in the U.S. Diabetes in the U.S. is more prevalent than in Sweden. Diabetes affects approximately 17 out of every 1000 people in the age group 25 to 35.
Also, Crump noted the most important risk factor for diabetes as obesity and family history. Recent CDC research states more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight.