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Gestational Diabetes Tied to Increased Risk of Obesity in Daughters

Update Date: Oct 23, 2014 03:13 PM EDT

Gestational diabetes typically occurs around week 24 of pregnancy. The condition, characterized by high blood glucose levels, tends to go away after birth. However, during pregnancy, gestational diabetes can lead to many complications. In a new study, researchers found that women who were overweight prior to conception and had gestational diabetes were more likely to have daughters that became overweight or obese.

"Glucose levels during pregnancy, particularly gestational diabetes, were associated with the girls being overweight, and this association was much stronger if the mother was also overweight before pregnancy," said Ai Kubo, PhD, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California.

Kubo and colleagues examined data on 421 mother-daughter pairs. The mothers were members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California and the girls were a part of the Cohort study of Young Girls' Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions (CYGNET).

From 2005 through to 2011, the study collected the girls' height, weight, body fat, abdominal obesity and other measurements every year. The mothers' blood glucose levels from weeks 24 to 28 were already in the Kaiser Permanente database. 27 mothers had gestational diabetes.

The researchers found that daughters born to mothers who suffered from gestational diabetes were more likely to have a body mass index (BMI), which measures obesity, that was 3.5 times higher than girls whose mothers did not have diabetes during pregnancy. This link was still strong after the researchers factored in other variables, such as race/ethnicity, the girls' stage in puberty and maternal weight.

The team added that girls who were born to overweight mothers that had gestational diabetes had a 5.5 times increased risk of being overweight in comparison to girls who had mothers of normal weight that did not have gestational diabetes. Aside from weight, the girls also had greater levels of body fat and a higher risk of abdominal obesity.

"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," said Lawrence H. Kushi, ScD, a study co-author and CYGNET Study principal investigator at the Division of Research, according to the press release.

The findings suggest that women should be more aware of their weight before and during pregnancy. The study was published in Diabetes Care.

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