Risk of an Obese Child Rises With Mother’s Glucose Levels During Pregnancy

The higher your blood glucose is during pregnancy, the greater your child’s chances of growing up to be obese, according to a recent study published in Diabetes Care.

The mechanism behind that outcome is called metabolic imprinting: The presumption is that when children are overfed in the womb by their mothers’ high blood sugars, they become imprinted, or pre-programmed, for obesity.

On a happy note, proper treatment of the high blood sugars appeared to eliminate the risk. Mothers who received treatment, even those who initially had the highest blood sugars, had children who were no more likely to get fat than any other child.

The study authors examined 9,439 mother-child pairs who gave birth between 1995 and 2000. None had pre-existing diabetes, and all were screened for gestational diabetes and high blood sugars. Their resulting offspring were then weighed between the ages of five and seven, the age at which excess weight best predicts adult obesity.

The researchers found that the risk of a child becoming overweight is directly proportional to the mother’s blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Women who had untreated gestational diabetes were almost twice as likely to end up with overweight children. Even when their blood sugar levels did not rise to the level of gestational diabetes, there was still an increase in risk that correlated directly to the amount by which their sugars were elevated.

Based upon their findings, the researchers recommended that every mother be tested for high blood glucose and gestational diabetes and that all receive treatment to lower their blood sugars to normal. The researchers also stated that perhaps the threshold for diagnosis of gestational diabetes should be lowered from 140 to 130 mg/dl.

Sources: Diabetes Care, September 2007; Time.com

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