Heavier Babies May Face Future Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes risk in the future is greater in overweight baby girls

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) From the moment you are born, your weight has an impact on your health. If your baby is overweight, he or she may be in store for health problems in the future.

Overweight baby girls may have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related risks when they grow older, compared to overweight male babies.

"Eat a healthy diet when pregnant."

Past studies have shown a link between birth weight and heart-related risks in childhood.

In this recent study, Rae-Chi Huang, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Western Australia in Perth, and colleagues wanted to see if birth weight and body fat in early childhood was associated with future metabolic risks like obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance - a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.

"What happens to a baby in the womb affects future heart disease and diabetes risk when the child grows up," explains Dr. Huang, who was also lead author of the study.

"We found that female babies are particularly prone to this increased risk and females who are at high risk of obesity and diabetes-related conditions at age 17 are showing increased obesity as early as 12 months of age," Dr. Huang says.

The researchers studied more than 1,000 Australians. At various intervals between one and 17 years of age, the researchers measured participants' birth weight, body mass index (BMI - a measure of body fat), blood pressure, insulin levels, blood sugar, triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood), and cholesterol.

The 17-year-old girls with the largest waists, higher levels of triglycerides and insulin, and lower HDL-cholesterol ('good' cholesterol) were also the girls who were heavier from birth. These girls were likely to have a higher BMI starting at birth and continuing through life.

In comparison, birth weight did not seem to affect diabetes-related risks in boys.

As diabetes during pregnancy becomes more and more common, it is likely that more babies will be born heavier than they should be. The results of this study highlight the need to address overweight and obesity in children from an early age, as well as in pregnant mothers.

"A healthy mother makes for a healthy baby," says Jennifer Mushtaler, M.D., an obstetrician in Austin, Texas who was not involved in the study. "Pregnant women should strive to achieve a weight gain during their pregnancy that is appropriate to their pre-pregnancy BMI."

According to Dr. Huang, "These findings are significant because in our modern western society, we are seeing increased maternal obesity and gestational diabetes, which mean there will also be a rise in female newborns that are born large for their age."

Dr. Huang concludes, "Our results can be applied to public health message targeting both maternal health and measures in early infancy regarding the prevention of childhood obesity and its consequences.

The study appears early online in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

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Review Date: 
March 28, 2012
Last Updated:
August 24, 2012