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Female foetuses exposed to tobacco smoke may have increased diabetes risk in adulthood. Says study

Posted:  Thursday, March 12, 2015

Numerous studies have indicated the potential role of prenatal environmental chemical exposures in the causation of adult diabetes mellitus. Adding to this body of evidence, a new study has found that female foetuses may be at an increased risk of developing diabetes during middle age if exposed to tobacco smoke. This association was found to be independent of the effects of adult body mass index or birth weight.

These were the results of a study conducted on 1,801 diabetic daughters aged 44 - 54 years who were part of the Child Health and Development Studies pregnancy cohort. The study examined the association between prenatal exposures and health outcomes in the parents and offspring. The results will be presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego.

The researchers had data on parental tobacco smoking during pregnancy, race, occupation, report of parental diabetes and self-report of body weight. The daughters, now having diabetes, were interviewed on phone or during home visits and blood tests were done to map their glycated haemoglobin levels (A1C) to understand their level of glucose control.

The researchers found that prenatal smoking by mothers had a stronger association with the daughter’s diabetes risk than prenatal smoking by fathers. This association persisted even after the researchers adjusted data for the daughters' birth weight or current body mass index.

"From a public health perspective, reduced foetal environmental tobacco smoke exposure appears to be an important modifiable risk factor for diabetes mellitus in offspring," said the researchers.

Although further large-scale studies are required to confirm these findings, it would be safe to say that mothers should avoid prenatal smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke to reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus in the offspring.

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