Children that developed in the womb whilst their mothers had gestational diabetes were over 3 times more likely to develop glucose intolerance according to the results of a new clinical study.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, as a result of high levels of hormones produced by the placenta. Unlike most other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes is usually temporary, with high blood sugar levels reverting back to normal after the pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes can occur in people of any weight, which is why gestational diabetes should be screened for in every pregnancy in the UK, but becomes more likely the more overweight you are.
In the study carried out by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine, 225 children and teenagers, between the age of 4 and 20 were selected for the study. The youths selected were obese but with normal glucose tolerance, as shown by an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The youths were then monitored after 2.8 years for glucose intolerance.
For the analysis, the researchers divided the youngsters into two groups, those whose mothers had gestational diabetes during their pregnancy and those whose mothers did not. 18% of the mothers had developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy and the other 82% did not.
The results showed that there were significant differences between incidences of insulin resistance in the youngsters of mothers that had gestational diabetes and those that did not. Of the youngsters born to mothers that had gestational diabetes, 31% recorded glucose intolerance on the OGT test at around 3 years after the recruitment period. By comparison, of the youngsters born to mothers that did not have gestational diabetes, only 9% of them developed impaired glucose tolerance.
The study shows that obese youngsters are more likely to develop insulin resistance (the cause of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes) than obese youngsters whose mothers did not develop gestational diabetes. More research will be needed to determine why this is the case.
Factors that could be responsible include: gestational diabetes directly affecting the child’s metabolism, genetic factors being passed on from mother to child, or lifestyle factors related to insulin resistance (such as certain dietary components and levels of activity) being shared by both mother and child.

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