The children of women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of obesity between the age of 9-11 years, according to new research.
US scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, Baton Rouge, report that exposure to gestational diabetes can also increase blood sugar and insulin levels in offspring.
This new study involved an analysis of 7,372 children from 12 countries, all of whom were aged between 9-11 years. Australia was responsible for 386 children, the highest of all the countries.
Criterion from the American Diabetes Association and World Health Organisation was used to diagnose maternal gestational diabetes – the reported prevalence was 4.3 per cent.
The overall prevalence of obesity in the children was 12.3 per cent; central obesity was 9.9 per cent; and high body fat was 8.1 per cent.
The researchers then calculated that the increased risk of obesity for children of mothers with gestational diabetes was 53 per cent, compared to mothers without the condition.
This risk was 73 per cent for central obesity and 42 per cent for high body fat. The association with central obesity remained statistically significant after adjustments for BMI, but not with obesity and high body fat.
“The mechanisms by which exposure to diabetes in the womb increases the risk of offspring obesity are not fully understood,” said the researchers.
“Exposure to maternal diabetes is associated with excess fetal growth in utero, possibly mainly due to an increase in fetal fat mass and alterations in fetal hormone levels.”
“Maternal prenatal GDM may also influence fetal genetics, thereby influencing the expression of genes that direct the accumulation of body fat or related metabolism.”
The findings were published in the online journal Diabetologia.

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