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Maternal gestational diabetes increases risk for childhood obesity

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August 16, 2016

Children born to mothers with gestational diabetes are nearly twice as likely to develop central obesity at age 9 to 11 years vs. children born to mothers without gestational diabetes, according to a multinational, cross-sectional study.

“Our study demonstrated a positive association between maternal [gestational diabetes] and the odds of childhood obesity and central obesity,” Pei Zhao, MD, of the Tianjin Women’s and Children’s Health Center in Tianjin, China, and colleagues wrote. “However, after additional adjustment for current maternal BMI, this association was only significant for central obesity and not for general obesity.”

Zhao and colleagues analyzed data from 4,740 children aged 9 to 11 years participating in the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE), conducted in 12 countries classified as low to high income. Parents completed questionnaires regarding maternal history of gestational diabetes, maternal education, current maternal body weight and height, maternal age at child’s birth, child’s age, sex, birth weight and infant feeding mode, and number of younger siblings, and completed a food frequency questionnaire. Children wore accelerometers for at least 7 days to assess physical activity and sleep patterns.

Within the cohort, self-reported mean prevalence of gestational diabetes was 4.3% (ranging from 1.9% in the United Kingdom and China to 8.8% in Portugal); overall prevalence of childhood obesity, central obesity and high body fat were 12.3%, 9.9% and 8.1%, respectively.

When compared with children of mothers without gestational diabetes, researchers found that the children of mothers with gestational diabetes had increased odds for developing obesity (OR = 1.53; 95% CI, 1.03-2.27), central obesity (OR = 1.73; 95% CI, 1.14-2.62) and high body fat (OR = 1.42; 95% CI, 0.9-2.26) in multivariable adjusted models, but only increased odds for central obesity persisted after additional adjustment for current maternal BMI.

The positive association of maternal BMI with increased odds for childhood obesity and central obesity were present among mothers with gestational diabetes and overweight, but not among mothers with gestational diabetes of normal weight, according to researchers.

“Since we found that maternal [gestational diabetes] might increase the risk of their children’s obesity, lifestyle intervention among [gestational diabetes] women and their children during pregnancy and after delivery might prevent the risks of maternal postpartum diabetes and maternal and children’s obesity,” Gang Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, assistant professor at the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told Endocrine Today. “More research is needed to confirm the effect of maternal [gestational diabetes] on the risks of childhood obesity and central obesity.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: ISCOLE was funded by the Coca-Cola Company. Zhao and Hu report no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for the other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.