Children who grow quickly in the first three years of life because they are allowed to eat as much as they want face a higher risk of become diabetic in childhood.

Children who grow quickly in the first three years of life because they are allowed to eat as much as they want face a higher risk of become diabetic in childhood.

An analysis of 2,400 children shows that those from affluent homes are more likely to develop the disease as an abundance of food leads to increased growth, which is associated with higher insulin secretion.

Scientists think this is why childhood type 1 diabetes, which makes people reliant on insulin injections for the rest of their lives, is becoming more common in affluent countries. In Britain the incidence of child diabetes has doubled in the past five years, with about 1,200 children under five years old being diagnosed each year.

"For people in poorer countries, the lack of food means these children are less at risk of developing type 1 diabetes," said Professor Jan Bruining of the Sophia Children's Hospital, Netherlands, who led the research.

The study, published in The Lancet, shows that children at risk of developing diabetes were heavier and taller than their peers. "This could act as an early warning for doctors to pick up the disorder," said Professor Bruining.

Ruth Best of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation said children diagnosed with diabetesneeded up to six insulin injections a day. "They find it difficult to cope practically with school as some teachers don't how to deal with them.

"They also suffer from being different and find themselves being isolated." Complications as a result of diabetes, such as blindness, amputations and strokes, tend to occur after 18 years on insulin, said Ms Best.

The Dutch research investigated growth of children with type 1 diabetes in the first years of life. It assessed changes inheight and body mass index (BMI) - a measure relating height and weight - in 91 children from four to 15. Their 125 healthy siblings, and a comparison group of 2,151 healthy children, were also studied.

The researchers found that before becoming diabetic, the type 1 children underwent a higher than average increase in BMI in the first year of life. They also grew unusually quickly in height over the next two years.

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