A new report has shown that babies born to women who were obese during pregnancy are three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
The study, conducted by the University of Edinburgh, examined the link between maternal body mass index (BMI) and the risk of the baby developing a clinically confirmed diagnosis of diabetes up to adulthood.
Researchers studied almost 120,000 people born between 1950 and 2011 in the Aberdeen area and linked the data with health records from the national register for diagnosed diabetes in Scotland.
The analysis took into account maternal history of diabetes before pregnancy, the stage of the pregnancy when the mother’s weight was measured, and maternal history of high blood pressure.
The data showed that 25 per cent of the pregnant women surveyed were overweight and 10 per cent were obese.
However, the proportion of obese mothers was found to increase five-fold from the years 1950-1959 (three per cent) to the years 2000-2011 (16 per cent).
At the end of the study, the data showed that if a woman was overweight during pregnancy, the increased risk of type 2 diabetes in her child rose to 40 per cent.
However, for expectant mothers who were obese while they were carrying their child, the risk was 3.5 times higher.
According to the NHS, a person is obese if their BMI ranges between 30 to 39.9. Anything above 40 is classified as “severely obese”.
As a result of the findings, the researchers warned that “urgent strategies” are required to reduce obesity in women of reproductive age as they believe high blood sugar levels while the baby is in the womb may “programme” them to develop the condition.
Lead researcher Professor Rebecca Reynolds, said: “We found an increased risk of developing diabetes in children born to obese mothers, which was not linked to socio-demographic factors.
“Our findings underline the urgent need to find ways of helping women plan for pregnancy by optimising their health – including reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.“
The study is published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.