Early Puberty Associated With Gestational Diabetes

CLEMSON, SC -- January 29, 2016 -- Women who began having menstrual cycles at a younger age are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Previous research has shown an association between beginning menstrual cycles at a young age and the development of type 2 diabetes. However, the current study specifically looked at menarche and gestational diabetes.

The study followed more than 27,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study 2 and observed that when menarche began at age 11 compared with age 14, women had a 39% higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. An increased risk, although lower, also occurred when menarche began at 12 and 13.

“This new finding could mean that doctors will begin asking women when they had their first period to determine their risk of developing gestational diabetes,” said lead author Liwei Chen, MD, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina. “They may represent a high-risk population and should be targeted for prevention programs.”

“Good weight control before pregnancy might help to reduce the gestational diabetes risk among those women,” added Dr. Chen.

Early menarche is also associated with obesity in adulthood, and previous research has pointed to pre-pregnancy obesity as a risk factor for gestational diabetes.

“But obesity doesn’t explain all the association between menarche and gestational diabetes,” said Dr. Chen.

Researchers made adjustments for women who reported being obese in adolescence and at age 18, as well as such lifestyle choices as smoking, drinking alcohol, total physical activity, and healthy eating, but the results were the same.

Menarche marks the beginning of puberty and myriad hormonal changes in the body. Some of those changes could be related to developing gestational diabetes later in life, said Dr. Chen. For instance, early menarche is also associated with higher levels of oestrogen in adulthood, and other hormone imbalances are associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes.

“Early age of menarche may represent a novel risk factor of gestational diabetes,” said senior author Cuilin Zhang, MD, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health (NICH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland. “Future studies to investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms are warranted.”

Dr. Chen added that further research in a more racially diverse group is also warranted because 92% of the subjects were white.

SOURCE: Clemson University
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