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Swedish Study Determines That Maternal Obesity and Overweight Increases Risk of Type 1 Diabetes in Children

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A recent study of more than 1.2 million children in Sweden published in the journal Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) has determined that children of parents with diabetes are approximately five times more at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The researchers found that those with mothers with type 1 diabetes have three times the risk, while the children of mothers with type 2 diabetes have almost double the chance.

In their study, the team of researchers led by Tahereh Moradi, Associate Professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden suggests that approaches to lessen obesity and overweight prior and during pregnancy could lessen the incidence of Type 1 diabetes, a condition that continues to increase in children in most of the world countries.

The study was conducted in a population of 1,263,358 children in Sweden from 1992 to 2004. These children were followed up until type 1 diabetes diagnosis, death, emigration, or until 2009. The researchers calculated Body Mass Index (BMI) for the first pregnancy trimester.

During the study period, 5,771 children had a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. From these, 5,155 had both their parents born inside Nordic countries, and 322 had both their parents born outside Nordic countries. The remaining 294 children had one parent born in a Nordic country and the other parent born outside a Nordic country.

Results also revealed that high body mass index was linked with a 33% increased risk of type 1 diabetes in offspring of parents without a history of diabetes in comparison with maternal BMI in the normal range.

The authors explained in a recent news release: “The finding that first trimester maternal obesity was a risk factor for type 1 diabetes only in offspring of parents without diabetes, and that maternal obesity caused no ‘extra’ risk in offspring of parents with diabetes, clearly suggests that heredity for type 1 diabetes is the strongest risk factor of the two for development of type 1 diabetes in the next generation.”

They concluded in the news release: “This population-based study from Sweden demonstrates significantly increased risks of type 1 diabetes in offspring of both mothers and fathers with diabetes and regardless of parental migration background. The highest risks were noted in offspring of mothers and fathers with type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, maternal overweight and obesity in early pregnancy was associated with increased risk of type 1 diabetes in the offspring of parents without diabetes. Therefore prevention of overweight and obesity in women of reproductive age–currently increasing in all countries–may contribute to a decreased incidence of type 1 diabetes.”

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