New Way to Predict Diabetes After Pregnancy

Diabetes is an ongoing risk for pregnant women. Often, when diabetes does arise during pregnancy, it is temporary; but in some women type 2 diabetes then develops after giving birth. How gestational diabetes associated with carrying a baby leads to Type 2 diabetes is not currently well understood.

After Pregnancy

A new study, however, has brought to light intriguing findings which may help predict which women are at risk of type 2 diabetes after birth. This would mean that preventative treatment could be used in those at risk, encouraging patients who could potentially develop diabetes to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into their daily routines.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

During pregnancy it is not uncommon for a woman’s blood sugar levels to increase. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed when a person becomes increasingly sensitive to glucose, facilitating spiking blood sugar levels and other diabetic symptoms while pregnant.

The incidence rate for gestational diabetes is still uncertain, but experts estimate that just under 10% pregnant women suffer from this condition. In 50% – 80% of cases, blood sugar levels will return to normal eventually after pregnancy. However, in 20% to 50% of women with gestational diabetes will eventually develop type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.

The American Diabetes Association recommends type 2 diabetes screening at six to 12 weeks after delivery in women with gestational diabetes, and every one to three years afterwards for life. The time-consuming nature of the two-hour oral glucose test is believed to be one reason for low compliance rates of less than 40 percent in some settings.

The study

The study was conducted by Michael Wheeler, and others from the University of Toronto, in collaboration with Erica Gunderson of the Permanente Northern California Division of Research. They discovered a simple, accurate new way to predict who will eventually go on to develop diabetes after having gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Previously, type 2 diabetes was diagnosed by monitoring blood sugar levels.  A fasting blood test followed by the time-consuming and inconvenient oral glucose tolerance test. However, the researchers identified several other metabolites that indicate early changes that signify future diabetes risk long before changes in glucose levels occur.

In addition to monitoring blood sugar levels, the team behind this study used targeted metabolomics, a more advanced way to predict the disease.

Targeted metabolomics provides a more sensitive way to analyse changes in the blood which predict the onset of diabetes earlier. It does this by revealing important information about substances called metabolites in the blood, which seem to alter as diabetes looms.

The study analysed these metabolite levels from women two months after giving birth. These participants had developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Based on this data, the findings were then compared later with those who went on to develop type 2 diabetes within a five year period. The key question was whether this new test could accurately predict who would develop type 2 diabetes and who would not.

The Results

The study was able to predict the onset of type 2 diabetes in women after childbirth with an accuracy of 83%.  More than this, the test results can be delivered to patients at a faster speed than conventional blood tests, not to mention that conventional testing involves inconvenient fasting and oral glucose approaches which take hours to administer and require repeat office visits.

As reported by Michael Wheeler was quoted as saying that “the prime objective of the study was to develop a diabetes test which was less invasive and could be administered while a mother is recovering from giving birth rather than having to organise a separate hospital appointment”.

Wheeler’s colleague Dr Gunderson added that “early prevention is the key to minimizing the devastating effects of diabetes on health outcomes… by identifying women soon after delivery, we can focus our resources on those at greatest risk who may benefit most from concerted early prevention efforts.”

It is hoped that this new study will help to combat an often neglected group of diabetes sufferers who needn’t develop the disease if time is given to alter lifestyle habits for the better. Needless to say the earlier the disease can be identified the better the chance that it can be counteracted through dietary and other lifestyle changes.

Furthermore, it also raises the possibility that this new technique for predicting diabetes using targeted metabolomics may be applicable to the wider non-pregnant population, which could revolutionize the efficacy and treatment of the type 2 diabetes.

The study may revolutionize how diabetes is diagnosed after the pregnancy, and could potentially yield new diagnostic methods for the general public.

For more news and information on cutting edge approaches to treating diabetes, visit Fight Diabetes blog.


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