New research suggests that the children of mothers who suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy face an increased risk of obesity during their pre-teens.

The study published in the journal Diabetologia is based on a multinational cross-sectional research conducted at urban and suburban sites in 12 countries which included 4,740 children.

Findings suggest that prenatal, perinatal and postnatal environmental factors impact childhood obesity and intrauterine exposure to maternal gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) places offspring at an increased risk of long-term adverse outcomes.

Various factors were considered such as maternal age at delivery, education, infant feeding mode, gestational age, number of younger siblings, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, sleeping time, sex and birth-weight while doing the study.

According to The Pioneer:

While the prevalence of reported maternal GDM was 4.3 per cent, the overall prevalence of childhood obesity, central obesity and high body fat was 12.3 per cent, 9.9 per cent and 8.1 per cent, respectively.

The increased risk for children of GDM mothers compared with non-GDM mothers was 53 per cent for obesity, 73 per cent for central obesity, and 42 per cent for high body fat.

“The mechanisms by which exposure to diabetes in the womb increases the risk of offspring obesity are not fully understood. Exposure to maternal diabetes is associated with excess foetal growth in utero, possibly mainly due to an increase in foetal fat mass and alterations in foetal hormone levels,” said Gang Hu, Researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Los Angeles in the US.

In addition, exposure to maternal diabetes results in higher levels of blood sugar, insulin and leptin in offspring. Maternal prenatal GDM may also influence fetal genetics that direct the accumulation of body fat or related metabolism.

“We found that maternal GDM was associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity among children aged 9-11 years from 12 countries, but this association was not fully independent of maternal BMI,” added Hu.