Elevated blood sugar during pregnancy boosts obesity risk for kids

By Allen Cone
Children of mothers with elevated glucose levels during pregnancy are a greater risk of obesity 10 to 14 years after birth, according to a study. Photo by <a class="tpstyle" href="">pixabay</a>
Children of mothers with elevated glucose levels during pregnancy are a greater risk of obesity 10 to 14 years after birth, according to a study. Photo by pixabay

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- If a woman has elevated glucose levels during pregnancy, the child is at a greater risk of obesity 10 to 14 years after birth, according to a study.

In addition, researchers found women were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes a decade after pregnancy even if the levels originally were not high enough to meet the traditional definition of gestational diabetes. The findings were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


The study followed mothers and their children 10-14 years after birth from 2013 to 2016. It was a follow-up to the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes study.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, primarily funded the study.

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"HAPO and its follow-up study have shown the detrimental long-term effects of elevated blood glucose on both mother and child and the importance of early intervention for women at risk for gestational diabetes," Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, the NIDDK director, said in a press release. "We hope these results will be used to improve the health of generations to come."


The original study examined 23,316 mother-child pairs and found that a mother's blood sugar levels, even below diabetes guidelines, were associated with her newborn's birth weight and body fat. In 2010, an international panel of experts recommend new diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes. Not all professional groups adopted these proposed criteria.

The followup study examined 23,316 pairs of mothers and their children.

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Of that total, researchers analyzed 4,832 children who were overweight and obese, including body mass index, body fat percentage, skin fold thickness and waist circumference. All of these measures showed that children born to mothers with elevated glucose levels were more likely to be obese.

Among children of mothers with gestational diabetes, 39.5 percent were overweight or obese and 19.1 percent were obese compared with 28.6 percent overweight or obese and 9.9 percent obese for children of mothers without diabetes.

Using BMI, 19 percent of children born to mothers with elevated blood glucose were obese compared with 10 percent for those with normal glucose.

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"The differences in mothers and their children due to the mother's higher blood glucose are very concerning," study author Dr. Barbara Linder, a senior advisor for childhood diabetes research at the NIDDK, said. "Even accounting for the mother's weight, glucose had an independent effect. Our findings add to the motivation to find ways to help women at high risk for gestational diabetes who are or plan to get pregnant to take steps to reduce their risk."


Examined were 4,697 mothers for type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and other disorders of glucose metabolism.

If women had elevated blood glucose during pregnancy, nearly 11 percent had type 2 diabetes 10-14 years after childbirth and about 42 percent had prediabetes.

Among those who did not have elevated blood glucose during pregnancy, about 2 percent had type 2 diabetes and about 18 percent had prediabetes.

None of the women in study were diagnosed with or treated for gestational diabetes during their pregnancy.

"HAPO helped redefine gestational diabetes, and now its follow up continues to raise important alarms about the long-term danger of high blood glucose levels during pregnancy," study chairman Dr. Boyd Metzger, emeritus professor of Nutrition and Metabolism at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said. "This study shows that both mothers with elevated blood glucose levels and their offspring are at higher risk for adverse health effects later in life. More research is needed to find interventions to help both these women and their children."

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