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‘Fat’ kids from diabetic mums

01 February, 2011

Children born of mums with gestational diabetes will tend to become fat, say Sydney scientists, and the worse mum’s sugar levels during pregnancy, the fatter they will be.

In Australia, roughly 8-10 per cent of pregnant women develop diabetes in pregnancy. The new finding underlines how important it is for women to try and maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy for the sake of generations to come.

Drs Sue Mei Lau and Jenny Gunton, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, drew their conclusions from a mouse model of gestational diabetes. Their findings are published in the journal Diabetologia, now online.

“If we don’t apply the brakes on gestational diabetes soon, we’re going to see a spiralling of its side effects in coming decades,” said Dr Gunton.

“Those side effects are escalating levels of obesity and diabetes, as well as more difficult births, caesarian sections and a higher risk of sick babies, because diabetes makes the placenta function less well.”

“In our experiments, we looked at mice with diabetes in pregnancy to see what effects it had on their offspring - foetal programming if you like.”

“We found that offspring from diabetic mothers spontaneously get fat on a normal diet. They even tend to eat a bit less than normal, but their metabolic rate is much lower, so that doesn’t compensate.”

“As the offspring get fatter, their bodies become less able to secrete and use insulin, which shows they are in the first stages of developing diabetes themselves.”

“We found it very interesting that there was a direct correlation between maternal blood sugar levels in pregnancy and various metabolic characteristics of the offspring in adult life,” said Dr Lau.

“Higher maternal blood sugars correlated with greater weight and body fat in the offspring as well as changes in expression of certain brain neuropeptides which control energy balance and body weight.”

“These findings should give us an added impetus to screen for diabetes in pregnancy. The trend in Australia is moving towards universal screening of women in the early third trimester.”

Existing studies show that diet and exercise decrease the risk of gestational diabetes and of later Type 2 diabetes.

Source: Garvan Institute

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