Having sons ups diabetes risks, study says

By Jasminee Sahoye

The study considered 643,000 women who had their first child.
The study considered 643,000 women who had their first child.

A recent Canadian study has found that women who were having sons were more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women who were pregnant with daughters.

Gestational diabetes is a type that occurs during pregnancy, typically in the second trimester.

“It is thought that gestational diabetes occurs because of a combination of underlying metabolic abnormalities in the mother and temporary metabolic changes that take place during pregnancy,” said one of the study authors, Baiju R. Shah, MD, PhD, of U of T, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto.

“Our findings suggest a male fetus leads to greater pregnancy-associated metabolic changes than a female fetus does.”

The population-based study used insurance records from Ontario to analyze the rate of diabetes cases among nearly 643,000 women who delivered their first child between April 2000 and March 2010. Only singleton births were included in the analysis.

While the researchers found women who were having boys were more likely to develop gestational diabetes, women who did develop gestational diabetes while they were pregnant with daughters were at higher risk of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.

This suggests these women had more serious underlying metabolic abnormalities that made them more susceptible to gestational diabetes, even without the added impact of a developing male fetus, Shah said. “This study suggests that the baby can help us better understand the health of the mother and can help us predict her risks for future diseases.”

Another study suggests lifestyle intervention or a medication regimen can help women with a history of gestational diabetes as they face a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes for years after giving birth.

“Our long-term follow-up study found the elevated risk of developing Type 2 diabetes persisted for years in women who had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and this long-term risk can be reduced with either intensive lifestyle intervention or the medication metformin,” said a study author, Vanita Aroda, MD, of MedStar Health Research Institute in Hyattsville, MD.

Long-term metabolic health in 288 women who had a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes and 1,226 mothers who did not have a history of the condition were analyzed through the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study (DPPOS).

The women participated in the initial Diabetes Prevention Program study, a randomized clinical trial where they were assigned to intensive lifestyle intervention, the medication metformin or a placebo. The intensive lifestyle intervention was aimed at reducing body weight by 7% and participating in moderate cardio exercise for 150 minutes a week.

During the DPPOS, the women continued to have their blood glucose levels measured twice a year for six years. The study looked at long-term health outcomes in Diabetes Prevention Program participants for about a decade after the women first enrolled in the study.

Women with a history of gestational diabetes who were assigned to take metformin or undergo the intensive lifestyle intervention were less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than women who received the placebo.

When they were assigned the placebo, women who had a history of gestational diabetes had a 48% higher risk of developing diabetes compared to women who were never diagnosed with the condition.