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Gestational Diabetes: The Effects Don’t Stop at Birth

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Mice born to diabetic mothers were prone to obesity even though they exercised as much as normal mice and even ate less. Image: iStockphoto

By Sue Mei Lau & Jenny Gunton

Jenny Gunton is a Senior Research Fellow with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s Diabetes and Transcription Factors Group.

Jenny Gunton is a Senior Research Fellow with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s Diabetes and Transcription Factors Group.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

New research explains why the children of mothers who develop diabetes during pregnancy have increased risks of obesity and diabetes themselves.

Diabetes is a condition characterised by high blood glucose levels. The hormone insulin, produced by the β cells of the pancreas, makes glucose move out of the blood and into the cells of the body, where it is used for fuel. Diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin to control blood glucose adequately.

There are three main types of diabetes.

1. Type 1 diabetes, which often occurs in children, occurs when the immune system becomes confused and attacks the β cells of the pancreas.

2. Type 2 diabetes usually involves the development of insulin resistance, so that insulin doesn’t cause blood glucose levels to fall as well as normal. Furthermore, the β cells can’t make and release enough insulin to compensate for insulin resistance.

3. Gestational diabetes is brought about by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. During a normal pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that cause insulin resistance. Gestational diabetes occurs when the β cells are unable to secrete enough insulin to overcome this insulin resistance. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include a family history of Type 2 or gestational diabetes, a maternal age over 35 and obesity, and non-Caucasian ethnicity.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.