As a pregnant woman and have diabetes, their children may have changed fat cells that and metabolic diseases in adulthood more likely, a small Danish study suggests.
Babies of mothers with diabetes may be exposed to high levels of blood sugar in the uterus, a condition known as fetal hyperglycemia.
“Fetal hyperglycemia affects fat stem cells, and these defects can be observed, some years later,” said lead study author Ninna Schioler Hansen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
In lab tests, adult offspring of women who have diabetes during pregnancy was found to have larger fat cells and more leptin, a protein made by fat cells that influences the appetite.
“As (high blood sugar) or diabetes is present during pregnancy, our study supports the importance of targeting a normal blood sugar levels and reduce the negative impact on the cells of the unborn child,” Hansen added per e-mail
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“Women who are thin and fit before pregnancy have a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy,” Hansen said.
Hansen’s team studied 206 adults, including some whose mothers had diabetes before pregnancy, others, of whom the mothers developed a condition known as gestational diabetes during the pregnancy, and a control group with mothers who do not have diabetes.
Adult offspring of women with diabetes in pregnancy showed “fundamental changes in the size of their fat cells, their ability to store fat as well as the way in which their body produced hormone leptin, which influences appetite regulation in the brain, Hansen said.
It is possible that the differences between adults with and without mothers who had diabetes during pregnancy might be explained by other factors that happened during the fetal development, the authors note in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Even so, the results offer clues for an explanation of the diabetes increased risk in children born to mothers with diabetes, says Dr. Joachim Dudenhausen, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study.
Changes by hyperglycemia in the mother “can be responsible for the child diabetes in later life,” Dudenhausen said by e-mail.
The best prevention is for women to begin pregnancy at a normal weight and getting a healthy amount of weight, while the growth of their babies.
Women who start at a normal healthy weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, while women who are overweight to start should get no more than 25 pounds, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“One of the highest risk factors for gestational diabetes are overweight before and during pregnancy,” Dudenhausen said.