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High Levels of Liver Enzyme Tied to Gestational Diabetes Risk

Update Date: May 02, 2014 10:09 AM EDT

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women who do not have high blood sugar or diabetes develop it during pregnancy. The health condition can be harmful to the baby if it is not managed well. Even though gestational diabetes affects around 18 percent of all pregnancies, according to the American Diabetes Association, researchers are still not sure what causes the condition. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of having elevated levels of one particular liver enzyme and found that these higher levels increased a woman's risk of gestational diabetes.

"A few studies have looked at liver enzyme levels during pregnancy and the risk of gestational diabetes, but to our knowledge this is the first to look at liver enzyme levels measured before pregnancy," said lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, project coordinator with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research according to the press release.

In this study, the researchers analyzed medical data on 256 women who had gestational diabetes and 497 women who did not. All women had provided blood samples between 1985 and 1996. The women all gave birth in Kaiser Permanente's Northern California region. From the blood samples, the researchers examined a liver enzyme known as gamma-glutaymyl transferase (GGT). GGT is a marker of liver function and has been tied to insulin resistance.

After accounting for factors such as body mass index (BMI) and alcohol use, the team concluded that women with elevated levels of GGT were two times more likely to get gestational diabetes in comparison to women with the lowest levels of GGT.

"Several biomarkers appear to be associated with the risk of gestational diabetes," said Monique M. Hedderson, PhD, senior author of the study and research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA. "This study and others we've done provide evidence that women who develop gestational diabetes have metabolic abnormalities even before pregnancy. In the future, we could potentially try to prevent gestational diabetes by intervening before women get pregnant."

The study was published in Diabetes Care.

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