Child obesity risk nearly trebles with maternal diabetes and large birthweight, study finds

By Julie Griffiths on 13 December 2018 Pregnancy Diabetes Research

University of Alberta research has found that children who were larger than average at birth and born to mothers who have developed gestational diabetes have a 43% rate of being overweight or obese – 2.8 times the likelihood of being obese among average-sized babies born to mothers without diabetes.

Even with no maternal history of diabetes, 35% of children who were born large – generally over 4.5kg or 9.9lb – remained overweight or obese as preschool children. 

Being born large appeared to be a bigger marker of risk than maternal diabetes status. The risk of obesity in children who were born average size of mothers who had gestational or pre-existing diabetes was 16% and 15% respectively. However, children who were born large had a 39% risk of being overweight or obese.

The study, published in the journal Diabetelogia, involved more than 81,000 children born to mothers in Alberta, Canada.

Each child's weight was checked at their preschool immunisation visit aged four to six years old.  

Lead researcher Professor Padma Kaul said: ‘With diagnosis of gestational and pre-existing diabetes on the rise, it’s really important to raise awareness around healthy eating, nutrition and diabetes management for mothers.’

The researchers said that they hoped their findings would reinforce public health campaigns advising women who are planning pregnancy that their weight, weight gain and blood sugar control during pregnancy may have a significant impact on the future health of their children.

Access the full the study here.