Early-Life Exposures and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus and Obesity

Curr Diab Rep. 2018 Aug 29;18(10):89. doi: 10.1007/s11892-018-1050-0.


Purpose of review: Type 2 diabetes is a growing concern worldwide with increasing incidence in youth. Development of preventive strategies in earlier stages of life is crucial. We aimed to examine epidemiological evidence of early-life exposures and their associations with childhood and later risk of obesity and diabetes, and to discuss potential mechanisms.

Recent findings: Parental obesity and diabetes in the preconception period may influence offspring's obesity risk via epigenetic mechanisms influencing gametogenesis and early development that could have significant transgenerational effects. A more comprehensive understanding of these effects is needed to identify possible avenues for interventions in both fathers and mothers to be. In addition, current evidence suggests that growth and body weight trajectories in infancy and childhood are useful indicators of later obesity and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, the composition and variations in the microbiome in early life are associated with long-term health and could mediate associations between several early-life exposures and later risk of diseases. Altogether, the epidemiological evidence supports the need for preconception and early-life interventions to reduce the obesity and diabetes burden in later life.

Keywords: Childhood; Developmental origins; Diabetes; Early life; Obesity; Programming.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microbiota
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors