PLYMOUTH, EnglandJune 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ —


June 15th 2012 represents a ground-breaking date in the history of diabetes research. After twelve years the EarlyBird project has made significant advances in understanding what triggers diabetes and cardio-vascular disease and the means to determine how advanced these conditions are. The Earlybird research has worryingly shown just how early in life the underlying symptoms of diabetes start, and how focus must move to early prevention through diet not simply physical activity, despite the current focus of government policy.


The EarlyBirds, a randomly selected group of 300 healthy children, have undergone an intensive series of measurements and tests from the age of five to seventeen. Since 2000, the Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Peninsula Medical School in PlymouthTerence Wilkin has been leading the ‘EarlyBird study’ to find which factors in childhood cause diabetes in later life.


The project aim is to help parents, teachers and decision makers in government to understand the preventable factors in childhood that are responsible for the current epidemics of diabetes and heart disease. This radical medical research will provide evidence to help academics identify the causes of diabetes.


The EarlyBird study has been distinctive in combining objective measures of physical activity and body composition, with annual fasting blood samples. These measures reach beyond simple body composition (BMI and body fat) to metabolic health (glucose control, insulin sensitivity, blood fats, cholesterol, blood pressure).


Critical to the success of the programme has been the funding of Dr Chai Patel, his Bright Future Trust and the Patel family who will have donated over £1million by the time the study is completed September 2013.

Dr Chai Patel, said:


“EarlyBird has developed and harnessed critical new advances in medical science in order to challenge some of the misconceptions surrounding diabetes, and its causes, and will undoubtedly lead to better medical practices being implemented to tackle the root cause of diabetes-onset.


“We are all incredibly grateful to the volunteers who have shown commitment, motivation and maturity which has been truly remarkable and would daunt most adults.


“I am proud to have been associated with a project that has massive potential to change lives across the world.”


Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Peninsula Medical School in PlymouthTerence Wilkin, said:


“When I was a medical student 40 years ago, type 2 diabetes was a disease of middle age and beyond. Indeed, it was referred to as ‘late onset’, ‘maturity onset’ or ‘adult onset’, and most died with it, rather than of it.


“In just one generation, a disease which afflicted only the elderly has become the fast growing chronic disorder of childhood.


“We can confidently anticipate that, with these new data, we shall improve our understanding of diabetes in childhood, become better able to detect the earliest changes and thereby improve our chances of effective prevention – something that eludes us at present.


“Importantly, the implications for public health policy are profound because the physical activity of children, crucial to their fitness and well-being, may not improve until their levels of obesity are first checked.”



Notes for Editors:
1. EarlyBird is investigating the factors in modern day childhood that are leading to record levels of obesity and the current epidemics of diabetes and heart disease in the developed world.
2. Based at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, the Study is tracking the lives of 300 children in order to find out why some develop the risk of diabetes and heart disease while others do not. It combines annual state-of-the-art measurements of body size, body composition, heart rate variability, blood pressure, energy expenditure and physical activity together with blood samples annually from the age of 5 years to 16 years with which to monitor the risk of diabetes and heart disease associated with the current obesity crisis in children.
3. No other study is working with longitudinal data of this kind in children from such a young age.
4. The Study performs 300 blood tests, body scans and ECGs a year and analyse 5000 minutes of physical activity per child per annum.
5. The EarlyBird Diabetes Trust is the registered charity that exists to support the work of the EarlyBird Study. The Trust aims to raise funds to keep the study viable, to publicise and promote the work of the study and to support the children and families who do so much to contribute towards this vital research.
6. 1.4 million people in the UK know they have diabetes. A further 1 million have diabetes – but don’t yet know. By the time they are diagnosed, half will have ‘complications’
7. Diabetes and its complications are fast becoming the UK’s No. 1 health threat, soon to outstrip smoking-related diseases, cancer and drugs. Type 2 or so-called ‘adult’ diabetes, is by far the commonest form of diabetes. It’s hugely on the increase; teenagers and even children are now getting it.
8. It is said that this will be the first generation where a significant number of parents will outlive their children – a chilling prediction indeed. We need to find out why.
9. Why is type 2 diabetes a problem? Type 2 diabetes is more serious than people think because of its so-called ‘complications’, blindness, kidney failure, amputation, heart attack and stroke.
10. When does type 2 diabetes start? The seeds of type 2 diabetes are almost certainly sown in early childhood, long before the symptoms become obvious. In some, the ‘fuse’ leading to diabetes will burn very slowly, in others, it will burn more rapidly. We need to know how to put it out before diabetes develops. Crucially, we need to know what ignites it in the first place.
11. Prevention is better than cure. By looking closely at a single group of children, as they grow and mature, doctors will have a better understanding as to why some people, and not others, develop diabetes. Importantly, it will help them prevent it in those who are most at risk. British children have a 1 in 5 lifetime risk of developing diabetes with it attendant complications of blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and other related illnesses.

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