Children of obese pregnant women face greater diabetes risk
The chance of children developing Type 2 diabetes more than triples if their mothers are obese during pregnancy, researchers have said. A study, which involved the birth records of 118,201 children spanning more than 60 years, looked at the link between the body mass index (BMI) of pregnant women and the risk of their child developing the condition right up to adulthood.
The research also found that the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increased by 40pc for children of overweight, as opposed to obese, women.
"This large cohort study... showed a significant association between maternal BMI and incidence of diabetes in the offspring," the study's authors said.
"This association may partly explain the link between being overweight or obese during pregnancy and offspring cardiovascular disease and mortality rates - highlighting a potential target for intervention."
Earlier studies have connected maternal obesity and offspring diabetes but have only included those who use medication, excluding others who control the condition by just using dietary practices.
One theory is that high levels of glucose and insulin in the womb of an obese woman could lead to a "programming" of "adverse metabolic outcomes" in the offspring.
Hormonal exposure and nutrient supply to the unborn child may also be impacted by bodily changes associated with obesity.
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The study, led by the University of Edinburgh and published in European medical journal Diabetologia, linked data from the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal Databank with figures from Scottish Care Information-Diabetes, and also found that the proportion of obese mothers increased five-fold between 1950 and 2011.
Maternal obesity's short-term complications include gestational diabetes, larger babies and an increased likelihood of delivery by caesarean. In the long term, infants born to obese mothers have a higher risk of premature heart disease and premature death.
The study's authors acknowledged that further research is required to explain the link between increased BMI in pregnant women and their children developing diabetes.
But there is an "urgent need" to find ways to prevent obesity in pregnant women and diabetes in their children, given that data suggests about half of all UK women between the ages of 16 and 44 are overweight or obese, the researchers said.
"Pregnancy represents a potential time to intervene with health advice for the family," they added.