Current Diabetes Reports

, 14:446 | Cite as

Maternal and In Utero Determinants of Type 2 Diabetes Risk in the Young

  • Kimberley D. BruceEmail author
Pediatric Type 2 Diabetes (PS Zeitler, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Pediatric Type 2 Diabetes


The global prevalence of diabetes mellitus has reached epidemic proportions. In 2010, it was estimated that 6.4 % of the adult population (285 million) have diabetes. In recent years, the incidence of type 2 diabetes (T2D), a condition traditionally associated with aging, has been steadily increasing among younger individuals. It is now a well-established notion that the early-life period is a critical window of development and that influences during this period can “developmentally prime” the metabolic status of the adult. This review discusses the role of maternal and in utero influences on the developmental priming of T2D risk. Both human epidemiological studies and experimental animal models are beginning to demonstrate that early dietary challenges can accelerate the onset of age-associated metabolic disturbances, including insulin resistance, T2D, obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. These findings show that poor maternal nutrition can prime a prediabetes phenotype, often manifest as insulin resistance, by very early stages of life. Thus, the maternal diet is a critical determinant of premature T2D risk. While the mechanisms that link early nutrition to age-associated metabolic decline are currently unclear, preliminary findings suggest perturbations in a number of processes involved in cellular aging, such as changes in longevity-associated Sirtuin activity, epigenetic regulation of key metabolic genes, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Preliminary studies show that pharmacological interventions in utero and dietary supplementation in early postnatal life may alleviate insulin resistance and reduce T2D risk. However, further studies are warranted to fully understand the relationship between the early environment and long-term effects on metabolism. Such mechanistic insights will facilitate strategic interventions that prevent accelerated metabolic decline and the premature onset of T2D in the current and future generations.


Developmental origins of health and disease Type 2 diabetes Metabolic syndrome Maternal diet Aging Maternal In utero 


Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Kimberley D. Bruce declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Metabolism and AgingThe Scripps Research InstituteJupiterUSA

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