Quit Smoking for Your Kids' Health

Tobacco smoke exposure in the womb tied to diabetes in girls

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Almost any parent would like to help his or her children be healthier. For those parents or future parents who smoke, here's another reason to quit.

Researchers from the University of California at Davis teamed up with the Berkeley Public Health Institute to study daughters of parents who smoked. This study found that girls exposed to tobacco in the womb had an increased risk of diabetes.

This study also found that either parent smoking while the mother-to-be is pregnant may increase diabetes risk for the child.

"We found that smoking of parents is by itself a risk factor for diabetes, independent of obesity or birth weight," said lead study author Michele La Merrill, PhD, an assistant professor of environmental toxicology at UC Davis, in a press release. "If a parent smokes, you're not protected from diabetes just because you're lean. Our findings are consistent with the idea that gestational environmental chemical exposures can contribute to the development of health and disease.”

Dr. La Merrill and colleagues used data from an ongoing Public Health Institute study called the Child Health and Development Study. They collected data on around 1,800 women whose mothers received prenatal care through the Kaiser Permanente Foundation Health Plan in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1959 and 1967.

The original study was designed to study breast cancer risks, so sons were not included.

These researchers found that women born to mothers who smoked while pregnant were two to three times as likely as daughters of nonsmoking women to develop diabetes. Past research has found that babies exposed to cigarette smoke in the womb were at higher risk of obesity, Dr. La Merrill and team noted.

Type 2 diabetes typically occurs in people who are obese. It results from decreased sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Dr. La Merrill and team found that even daughters who were not obese had a higher risk of diabetes when one or both parents smoked. The risk of diabetes in daughters increased by 170 percent if their mothers smoked while pregnant. When the father smoked while mom was pregnant, daughters had a 70 percent increased risk of diabetes.

Dr. La Merrill and team said both parents should avoid smoking to protect their daughters' health.

Even patients who face a raised risk of type 2 diabetes can take steps to lower their risk. Maintaining a healthy diet, good exercise habits and a healthy weight can all lower type 2 diabetes risk.

This study was published online Feb. 9 in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.

This research was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the California Breast Cancer Research Program Special Research Initiative. Dr. La Merrill and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 10, 2015
Last Updated:
February 14, 2015