February 24, 2020Women's Health
Gestational diabetes, defined as high blood sugar that first occurs during pregnancy, increases the risk of complications for mothers and their infants. In most cases, the condition resolves soon after the baby is born, but nearly half of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and other health problems. However, little research has been done on the genetic factors influencing a woman's risk for progressing to type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes.
According to an article published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care (13 February 2020), women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes, are more likely to have particular genetic profiles. The findings provide insight into the genetic factors underlying the risk of type 2 diabetes and may inform strategies for reducing this risk among women who had gestational diabetes. Previous research has linked variations in certain genes (called single nucleotide polymorphisms) to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. According to the authors, the study suggests that a healthful diet may reduce risk among women who have had gestational diabetes and are genetically susceptible to type 2 diabetes. The authors added that larger studies are needed to validate these findings.
In the current study, researchers analyzed data from 2,434 women with gestational diabetes who participated in the Diabetes & Women's Health Study. The study followed women before, during and after pregnancy and captured data on their health later in life. Of the original group, 601 women with gestational diabetes went on to develop type 2 diabetes. For the study, the authors checked genetic scans of the 2,434 women for the presence of 59 gene variants thought to be more common in people who have type 2 diabetes. Results showed that, women who had the largest proportion of these gene variants were 19% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared to those who had the lowest proportion of these variants. The authors also ranked the women's diets according to the proportion of healthy foods. Among women who adhered to a healthier diet, the risk associated with the gene variants was lower than that of the other women, but the differences between the two groups were not statistically significant.