Gestational Diabetes Could Accelerate Biological Age in Children

October 13, 2020 13:08:44

According to the work of Rutgers researchers published in the journal Epigenetics, kids who are born to diabetic mothers are prone to aging faster biologically and they may also be more susceptible to high blood pressure and obesity later in life.

The study analyzed more than 1,000 Chinese children born by mothers who had diabetes during pregnancy in order to understand their biological aging process. Of interest to the research team was the in utero exposure of the kids to diabetes and how that affected DNA methylation. Epigenetic methylation looks at how exposure to different conditions and environments accelerates or slows down the aging process at a cellular level.

Scientists can determine whether your DNA methylation matches with your chronological age or makes you biologically older than you actually are in terms of the years one has spent on earth. Individuals with a higher DNA methylation have been linked to a higher propensity to develop high blood pressure as well as other poor health outcomes later in life.

For this particular study, the team of researchers focused on 1,156 kids in Tianjin, China. The kids were aged between three and ten years old. When the epigenetic age of these kids was measured, it was found that all the children who were born to mothers that had diabetes while pregnant were biologically older than their chronological age.

This higher epigenetic age relative to the chronological age of the kids puts those children at a higher risk of having a higher BMI (body-mass index, a measure of whether someone is overweight, obese or of normal weight for their height). The kids were also found to be prone to having a higher percentage of body fat and a larger upper arm circumference.

Stephanie Shiau, the lead author of the study who also works as an instructor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, says that the findings show that gestational diabetes could have long-term adverse effects on the cardiometabolic health markers of the individuals.

This research makes a strong case for additional longitudinal studies (research which follows up the study subjects several years after the initial study) to get additional data about the link between one’s epigenetic age and the future onset of metabolic diseases in adulthood.

According to the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”), about 2-10% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by gestational diabetes. This means that millions of kids are at high risk of developing the health problems linked to their higher epigenetic age.

DarioHealth (NASDAQ: DRIO), a global digital therapeutics company serving its users with dynamic mobile health solutions, is a company operating within the diabetes management market to keep an eye on.

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