A recent study indicates that birth order may raise the risk of first-born children developing diabetes or high blood pressure. First-born children have greater difficulty absorbing sugars into the body and have higher daytime blood pressure than children who have older siblings, according to the study.
The study was conducted at the University of Auckland's Liggins Institute in New Zealand and was accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). The study was the first to document a 21 percent drop in insulin sensitivity among first-born children.
"Although birth order alone is not a predictor of metabolic or cardiovascular disease, being the first-born child in a family can contribute to a person's overall risk," said Wayne Cutfield, MBChB, DCH, FRACP, of the University of Auckland.
Cutfield is a professor of Paediatric Endorinology at the University. He is considered an expert on insulin sensitivity.
Since the global trend seems to be a shrinking family size, a larger proportion of the population is made up of first-born children. These children, the researchers predict, could develop conditions like type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke and hypertension. The study measured fasting lipid and hormonal profiles, height, weight and body composition in 85 healthy children aged four through 11. Researchers focused on children in this age range because puberty and adult lifestyle can affect insulin sensitivity. Of the 85 children in the study, 32 were the first-born children in their families. Those 32 first-borns had a 21 percent reduction in insulin sensitivity.
Researchers reasoned that the metabolic differences in younger siblings might be caused by physical changes in the mother's uterus during her first pregnancy. As a result of the changes, nutrient flow to the fetus tends to increase during subsequent pregnancies.
"Our results indicate first-born children have these risk factors, but more research is needed to determine how that translates into adult cases of diabetes, hypertension and other conditions," Cutfield said.
The article, "First-born Children Have Reduced Insulin Sensitivity And Higher Daytime Blood Pressure Compared To Later-born Children," will appear in the March 2013 issue of JCEM.
This article was taken in part from a press release by The Endocrine Society. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of diabetes, make an appointment with your physician.
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