(IN PHOTO)Babies are pictured in a maternity ward at the Munich hospital 'Rechts der Isar' January 18, 2011. REUTERS

Infant weight gain during the first year of life has been linked to acquiring type 1 diabetes. The research, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics on Dec 7, says that when infants gain weight, exceeding the mean weight, there is a 20 per cent chance of acquiring the illness.

The researchers collected data on almost 100,000 children from Denmark and Norway between February 1998 and July 2009. Six kilogrammes is the mean weight gain during the first year of life. Each kilogramme added to that would mean a 20 per cent chance of developing type 1 diabetes by the age of nine. The team found that only 146 Norwegian children and 121 Danish children developed type 1 diabetes.

“The findings indicate that the early childhood environment influences the likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes,” said lead researcher Maria Magnus. The researchers admit that weight gain is only one of the factors that influence the development diabetes, but a link has been established.

These findings, however, does not encourage parents and physicians to reduce infant weight to prevent diabetes. It is only an observation. Hence, no concrete advice can be given based on the results.

Type 1 diabetes is characterised by the destruction of the pancreatic beta cells, which results in absolute insulin deficiency. It is previously known as juvenile diabetes because people below the age of 30 are usually affected. The type constitutes five per cent of the overall diabetes cases, according to the American Diabetes Association.

"It is too early to give any advice to change practice regarding infant feeding or weight gain for the purpose of reducing the risk of type 1 diabetes," senior author Lars Stene told MedPage Today. "Many factors influence both infant weight gain and risk of type 1 diabetes, and we need more research to work out the explanations for the finding, and how we potentially can modify weight gain in a way that will reduce type 1 diabetes risk without other harmful effects on child health."

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimated that there were 2,323 new cases of type 1 diabetes in 2013, equating to 11 cases per 100,000 population. It is more prevalent in males than females, 12 cases and nine cases, respectively, per 100,000 population. The disease peaks between the ages of 10 and 14. Fifty-two per cent of all new cases reported were among young people below 18 years old.

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