While Colorado may be the skinniest state, reports indicate that our state’s residents, both adults and children, are growing more and more obese each year and both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have increased exponentially in our nation’s youth over the last decade. Researchers are now honing in on human developmental periods – in utero, neonatal, and early childhood – and environmental factors as possible culprits.
To further investigate and understand the complex interplay of developmental exposure, genetic and epigenetic processes, and critical developmental periods in life, the Colorado School of Public Health and other collaborators on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have created the Lifecourse Epidemiology of Adiposity and Diabetes (LEAD) center, where scientists will help understand the causes and identify population approaches to preventing obesity and diabetes.
Dr. Dana Dabelea, the Conrad M. Riley Endowed Professor in epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health is the LEAD center’s director, who has brought seven new and existing grants totaling more than $16.5 million under the LEAD’s umbrella.
“During critical phases of development, the environment we live in is continually reprogramming our genomes through epigenetic processes to respond to a variety of environmental stressors such as the foods we eat or our exposure to environmental pollutants,” explained Dr. Dabelea. “As a result of this, as well as many other processes we are just beginning to understand, we are seeing higher rates of obesity and earlier onset of diabetes at younger and younger ages globally. A collaborative center like LEAD will help us not only understand why this is happening, but will also develop programs and make recommendations on how to prevent it from happening in the future.”