Type 2 Diabetes Risk Strongly Linked to Pregnancy Exposures

Researchers are calling for updated diabetes prevention guidelines that incorporate fetal experiences into the risk equation.

In light of evidence demonstrating that type 2 diabetes risk is influenced by intrauterine exposures, researchers at Lund University in Sweden are calling for updated diabetes prevention guidelines that incorporate fetal experiences into the risk equation.

Current guidelines for preventing type 2 diabetes focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, in their review published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, the researchers found a U-shaped relationship between fetal nutrition and diabetes risk, meaning that babies born to under- or over-nourished pregnancies have a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life.

"This review describes the evidence showing that there are other factors that may be intervened upon much earlier in life," said study co-author Angela Estampador in a press release. "We will try to identify novel biomarkers that detect primordial defects arising in pregnancy or early childhood. The results of this work should help inform guidelines to substantially improve prevention of diabetes.”

The investigators determined that limiting weight gain in pregnancy and lowering gestational glucose concentrations can benefit offspring, even if a mother does not have gestational diabetes.

Regardless of the causal basis to observations of early-life risk factors and later disease risk, the fact that such associations exist and that they are of a fairly large magnitude justifies further research around this topic,” the authors wrote. “…Indeed, lifestyle intervention clinical trials in pregnancy are now coming online, where materials and data are being collected that should facilitate understanding of the causal nature of intrauterine exposures related with gestational weight gain, such as elevated maternal blood glucose concentrations.”