EarlyBird is a focused cohort study, monitoring the causes and behaviour of insulin resistance in contemporary children. Insulin resistance, largely the result of obesity, is believed to underpin the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease that characterise modern society.
The EarlyBird Study is following a cohort of healthy children as they move from 5y at school entry to 16y. It is as if we had lined up 300 children at the starting line, fired the gun, and were taking snapshots every year as they move down the track to the finishing line at age 16y. In reality, the snapshots are sophisticated measures that include BMI, body composition, energy expenditure, physical activity (electronic activity monitors) and metabolic health (blood sugar, cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, arterial stiffness etc). Uniquely, EB has been taking annual fasting blood samples from these children since they were five years old. Some will stray out of their lane towards obesity and diabetes (three have already developed diabetes, others are precariously close), and the study seeks to establish why they do when others do not.
The long-term design of the EarlyBird study is fundamental to its strength. The real value of such a study lies with the predictions it can make, relating early behaviours to later outcome. The study is offering evidence from contemporary children which health strategists need to build a rational public health programme for the prevention of diabetes.