Bad diets and a lack of exercise are making primary schoolchildren prone to the disease decades before it is usually diagnosed, according to research. Scientists analysed blood samples taken from 4,761 people.
They found early signs of Type 2 diabetes in children aged eight.
Doctors now hope the findings will help them stop the disease before it becomes harmful.
Lead investigator Dr Joshua Bell, of the University of Bristol, said: “Diabetes is most common in older age. But we see signs of disease susceptibility very early on – about 50 years before it is usually diagnosed.
“Knowing what these early signs look like widens our window of opportunity to intervene much earlier and stop diabetes before it becomes harmful. It is remarkable we can see signs of adult diabetes in the blood from such a young age.
“What we didn’t know is how early in life the first signs of disease activity become visible and what these early signs look like.”
Some 745 children were treated in specialist paediatric diabetes clinics in 2018/19, a 47 per cent rise from 2013/14.
The findings were published in Diabetes Care.