Gestational diabetes triples risk of obesity in daughters

Based on a study done by researchers from Kaiser Permanente, developing gestational diabetes and being overweight prior to pregnancy increases risks of a woman having daughters who are obese later in their childhood.

Published in Diabetes Care, the study employed long-term research on 421 mother-daughter pairs who are all members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, the first of its kind to find a direct link between hyperglycemia in mothers and obesity in their children.

The girls who participated in the study were all part of the Cohort study of Young Girls' Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions (CYGNET), a consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health for examining early puberty determinants.

"This research builds on our long-term study of pubertal development in girls, which has been underway since the girls were between 6 and 8 years old," explained Lawrence H. Kushi, ScD, Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research principal investigator for CYGNET and co-author for the study.

Between 2005 and 2011, the participants were followed by researchers, with annual visits to clinics used to measure height, weight, abdominal obesity, body fat, and other parameters in the girls. Pregnant women part of the Kaiser Permanente system are required to undergo glucose tolerance tests when they reach weeks 24 to 28 so researchers will be able to use information on the mothers and link them with those of their daughters, thanks to Kaiser Permanente's electronic medical records.

Out of all the mothers that are part of the study, 27 had gestational diabetes. When a mother has the condition, her daughter has a higher risk of having a body mass index that is at least at the 85th percentile which is 3.5 times higher compared to those who had mothers who didn't have gestational diabetes.

Additionally, if the mother was overweight while diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a daughter also has 5.5 times higher risks of becoming overweight. Similar associations were made for a daughter developing increased body fat and abdominal obesity.

Given the association between the condition of the mother and the daughter later in childhood, the study recommends behavioral modifications for women to keep their weights at bay and improve overall lifestyles before and during a pregnancy.

Kaiser Permanente epidemiologist Ai Kubo, PhD was the study's lead author. Alongside Kushi, co-authors include: Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD; Cecile A. Laurent; Charles P. Quesenberry, Jr., PhD; Anousheh S. Mirabedi; Gayle C. Windham, PhD; Louise C. Greenspan, MD; Julianna Deardorff, PhD; and Robert A. Hiatt, MD, PhD.

The study received funding from the National Center for Research Resources, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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