Fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine may increase a child’s risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Canadian researchers examined the effect of fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine on female Wistar rats. The rats were given either saline or 1 milligram per day of nicotine during pregnancy and lactation.
Exposure to nicotine resulted in increased postnatal growth and fat. Serum insulin concentrations were decreased in the rats that had been exposed to nicotine at birth. This was associated with increased disintegration of beta cells.
“Fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine results in metabolic changes in the offspring that are consistent with obesity and type 2 diabetes,” write the researchers. “We propose that these metabolic changes may be a consequence of the initial insult to the beta cell during fetal life, and that this animal model has many characteristics of diabetes in humans.”
—Diabetologia, November 2005