Fatty diets or high alcohol intake during pregnancy may lead to diabetes in children

Fatty diets or high alcohol intake during pregnancy may lead to diabetes in children

Women who consume a high fat diet or who drink significant amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may increase the risk of their child developing diabetes as an adult according to a study in the current edition of the Journal of Endocrinology.

A team led by Dr Sam Pennington of the Department of Biochemistry, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has found that insulin resistance, which is a major aspect of type 2 diabetes, is much more likely to develop in adult offspring whose mothers were given a high fat diet or alcohol whilst they were pregnant.

In the study, two separate groups of pregnant rats were given a diet in which either 12% (normal levels) or 35% of calories came from fat. Some of the animals were given alcohol (ethanol, 35% of total calories) or alcohol plus fat.1 The offspring of all mothers were then studied over the next 14 months to assess the long-term effects of dietary fat and ethanol on the offspring’s insulin sensitivity.

The animals whose mothers had consumed ethanol, had lasting changes to their muscle tissue glucose uptake, and insulin sensitivity. They were also often smaller at birth and had poorer survival rates.

The study found that adult animals whose mothers had a diet of 35% fat during pregnancy not only showed lower tissue glucose uptake, but they also had consistently lower whole body insulin sensitivity. These animals had only half the insulin-dependent tyrosine kinase activity of those offspring whose mothers had 12% fat in the diet. Past studies have shown that a fall in the activity of this enzyme is associated with insulin resistance and diabetes.

Dr Pennington said “Past work has examined the effect of the Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, as well as the influence of a high fat diet on people’s metabolism. The current results are useful as they shed more light on the link between diabetes in adult offspring and maternal dietary fat and alcohol consumption. However, there needs to be significantly more research into this association, as obviously there are a large number of hormonal and metabolic factors beyond those examined in this study that impact upon whole body insulin response”.

This research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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