Being exposed to organic pollutants during early pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of gestational diabetes, according to new research.
The study, conducted by Leda Chatzi of the University of Crete, found that a 10-times increase in exposure to organic pollutants is linked to a 4.4 times increase in the risk of gestational diabetes.
The research focused on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) an extremely prevalent group of substances that includes organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Exposure to POPs has been linked to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome in previous studies, but this is one of the first to examine its effect on gestational diabetes.
The researchers examined the data of 639 Greek women, 68 of whom developed gestational diabetes. After adjusting for BMI and several other factors, the researchers concluded that a 10-times increase in pollutant exposure was linked to a 4.4 times increase in the risk of gestational diabetes.
“These findings suggests that women with high PCBs levels in early pregnancy had higher risk for gestational diabetes,” the authors concluded. “Further studies are needed to replicate these results and to evaluate potential biological mechanisms underlying the observed associations.
“As countries around the world, including Greece, deal with an increasing prevalence of gestational diabetes, the findings are important from a public health perspective as knowledge of environmental risk factors could help to reverse this trend. Our future research in this cohort will examine whether prenatal exposure to POPs is associated with alterations in glucose metabolism and diabetes development of the offspring in early childhood.”
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm.

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