The findings were announced at the Diabetes UK annual conference in Liverpool earlier this month by Dr Steven Hunter, an Honorary Senior Lecturer at Queen’s and Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
For the first time, the Queen’s researchers have extended their observations to cover childhood. Dr Hunter said: “Other studies have investigated the impact of high sugar intake in adulthood on health, but this study extends the observation to childhood. This means we can look towards planning preventative strategies.
“What this study emphasises is that there may be long-term consequences of an unhealthy diet and lifestyle in childhood, and that efforts to improve health need to start in childhood to try and stop the development of diabetes and heart disease.”
The group of volunteers involved in the research were initially studied in adolescence and then followed up 10 years later when the effect of diet on heart and bone health was examined.
Dr Hunter explained: “Individuals with higher intakes of sugar had higher blood sugar levels and greater insulin resistance, a feature which contributes to the development of diabetes and heart disease, compared to individuals who had a lower sugar intake. This association was not related to total calorie intake, body weight or activity levels.
“In order to examine the association between sugar intake and risk of diabetes further, more robust prospective randomised studies are being carried out in overweight and obese adults.”
Those involved in the research were Dr Michelle McKinley, Dr Jayne Woodside and Professor Ian Young from the Nutrition and Metabolism group, Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Anthony Lewis from the Royal Victoria Hospital.
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