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Can childhood diets lead to diabetes?

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4:03pm, February 15, 2001

Long-term consumption, early in life, of foods that quickly digest into simple sugars may program the body to make excess insulin--and abdominal fat. These findings, from an Australian study in rats, suggest how diet might foster an individual's susceptibility to obesity and diabetes.

Dorota B. Pawlak and her group at the University of Sydney fed 2-month-old rats diets that nutritionally resembled what most people now eat--about 20 percent protein, 35 percent fat, and 45 percent carbohydrates, which are sugars and starches. However, half of the animals received carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI), which signifies foods that digest slowly. The rest got high-GI carbs (SN: 4/8/00, p. 236). These break down rapidly, releasing the simple sugar glucose into the blood.

By the trial's end, after 7 weeks, the animals all weighed about the same. However, those that had dined on the high-GI foods had more fat--for example, 15 percent more fat at a site that's a model for

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