Children born to mothers who had gestational diabetes may age faster biologically, according to new research.
These children may also be at an increased risk for obesity and high blood pressure, the researchers report.
The study explored how more than 1,000 children born to mothers in China aged on a cellular level. Researchers examined their exposure to gestational diabetes in utero and their DNA methylation, or epigenetic age, which indicates how experiences and exposures reflect true biological age even in early childhood.
In the United States, gestational diabetes affects between 2% to 10% of pregnancies annually, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Accelerated aging, which researchers can determine by evaluating if a person’s estimated DNA methylation age is greater than their chronological age, has been shown to be associated with cardiovascular risks and poor health outcomes later in life.
The researchers measured the epigenetic age of 1,156 children who were ages 3 to 10 in Tianjin, China, to see how it differed from their chronological age.
They found that children born to mothers who had diabetes while pregnant had a higher epigenetic age—or were “older” than their actual age—and that this epigenetic age is associated with higher weight, body mass index, body fat percentage, upper-arm circumference, and blood pressure.
“These findings suggest that gestational diabetes may have long-term effects on epigenetic aging in offspring and lead to poorer cardiometabolic health outcomes,” says lead author Stephanie Shiau, an instructor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.
The findings support the need for further studies using longitudinal samples to evaluate the association between epigenetic age and later onset of adult metabolic diseases.
The research appears in the journal Epigenetics.
Additional coauthors are from the Tainjin Woman’s and Children’s Health Center, Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
Source: Rutgers University