Babies with a low birth weight are likely to have a father with late-onset diabetes, according to new research. Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, this is one of the first studies to use information from the large, long-term study, UK Biobank. Researchers are confident in their results because of the enormous size of the study.

The UK Biobank is the largest of its kind. Starting in 2006, the researchers spent four years enrolling about 500,000 volunteers aged 40 to 69 years. The intent of the database is to build a powerful research database that can be used to discover why some people get sick and others do not. The participants fill out health and wellness questionnaires about lifestyle, medical history, and basic nutritional habits. Researchers also gather data, such as height, weight, blood pressure, and DNA samples. The researchers will continue to monitor participants for another 25 years. This team of researchers is one of the first to use data from this database.

For this study, scientists from the University of Exeter Medical School looked at 250,000 adults from the UK. Of those participants, 6576 had type 2 diabetes. When researchers asked participants about family history of diabetes, 19,478 reported maternal diabetes but not paternal diabetes. Another 20,057 said their fathers had diabetes but not their mothers; 2754 participants said both parents had diabetes.

The researchers found that babies whose fathers had diabetes were 45 grams lighter at birth than babies whose parents did not have the disease. In comparison, the researchers found that babies born to mothers with diabetes were 59 grams heavier than other newborns.

Low birth weight is a serious issue for infants, as smaller babies face an increased risk for developing medical conditions later in life, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. The newest research suggests there is a genetic link between paternal diabetes and low birth weight. This means the relationship between diabetes and birth weight are more complex than previously understood, in that babies born to diabetic mothers tend to be heavier than average at birth.


  1. Tyrrell, Jessica S., and Hanieh Yaghootkar. "Parental Diabetes and Birthweight in 236 030 Individuals in the UK Biobank Study." International Journal of Epidemiology. N.p., 11 Dec. 2013. Web. 29 Dec. 2013. 
  2. Biobank. "Dad's influence on birth weight linked to diabetes gene."  Biobank. Web. Retrieved 30 Dec 2013.