A US study has found that children of women who did not have diabetes or develop gestational diabetes but who had slightly elevated glucose levels in pregnancy, were more likely to be overweight by age 3.
It is now well established that children of women with pre-existing diabetes or gestational diabetes (diabetes which develops in pregnancy) are more likely to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life, as a result of exposure to excess glucose in utero. In the current study researchers looked a the relationship between a child’s BMI (body mass index) at age 3 years and their mothers blood glucose level (measured during a glucose challenge test at around 27 weeks gestation to screen for gestational diabetes) in women without pre-existing or gestational diabetes. They studied 263 mother- child pairs.
They found that at 3 years of age, 21% of children were overweight and 5% obese. After controlling for mum’s pre-pregnancy weight, children whose mothers had a glucose level of 7.2mmol/L or more were more than twice as likely to be overweight or obese compared to those with a glucose level under 5.6mmol/L. The current cut-off for the diagnosis of gestational diabetes is 7.8mmol/L.
The researchers suggest that even in the absence of diagnosed diabetes or gestational diabetes, children who are exposed to higher glucose levels in pregnancy are more likely to develop weight problems later in life. They suggest that this is a modifiable factor that could reduce future obesity risks for a child and suggest that women with raised glucose levels, even if they don’t meet the current criteria for gestational diabetes, may need intervention to reduce their child’s exposure to excess glucose during pregnancy.
Deierlein et al. The Association Between Maternal Glucose Concentration and Child BMI at Age 3 Years. Diabetes Care 2011; 34: 480-484.