Being exposed to diabetes in the uterus increases the risk of developing a number of conditions, new research suggests.
The study, conducted by researchers at Lund University in Sweden and published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, suggest that intrauterine exposure to gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
The study recommends that diabetes prevention guidelines incorporate fetal programming events. The term refers to the hypothesis that the environment of the uterus can impact the risk of developing certain diseases later in life.
Paul Franks, professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Lund University, and author of the study, explained:
“More recently research on fetal programming has been advanced by technological developments that has allowed the detailed molecular characterisation of tissue samples from babies and mothers.
“That is really where I would say the field is going, in terms of developing the ideas around epigenetic programming in utero, and later risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
The current guidelines for preventing type 2 diabetes focus on lifestyle modification as the best form of treatment. In some cases, they recommend pharmacological intervention.
“This review describes the evidence showing that there are other factors that may be intervened upon much earlier in life…We will try to identify novel biomarkers that detect primordial defects arising in pregnancy or early childhood. The results of this work should inform guidelines to substantially improve prevention of diabetes.”

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