October 14, 2015

Mother’s Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis Slows Fetal Brain Response After Meals

WASHINGTON, DC -- October 14, 2015 -- When a pregnant woman has gestational diabetes, her unborn child tends to react more slowly to sounds after the mother consumes sugary foods or drinks compared with the offspring of a woman who does not have the condition, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“This is the first time a study has shown that the mother’s gestational diabetes can affect how quickly her fetus reacts to stimuli after a meal,” said Hubert Preissl, PhD, University Hospital Tübingen, and the Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases of the Helmholtz Center Munich, Munich, Germany. “The findings provide important insights into how the mother’s gestational diabetes diagnosis can affect her child’s brain activity.”

A total of 40 pregnant women, including 12 who had gestational diabetes, participated in the small study. Following an overnight fast, the women drank a 75-gram glucose solution. Researchers measured the women’s blood sugar prior to, an hour after and 2 hours after ingestion.

Each time the mothers’ blood sugar was drawn, the scientists used an auditory stimulus to prompt a response in the fetus. A sound was generated by a speaker, and scientists used plastic tubing transmitted it to a point on the mother’s abdomen close to the baby’s ear. Using fetal magnetoencephalography, the researchers measured each fetus’ response to the auditory stimulus.

An hour after the mothers’ consumed the sugary solution, the researchers found children of women with gestational diabetes were slower to react to sounds than the children of women who did not have the condition.

Fetuses of women who did not have gestational diabetes responded in an average of 206 milliseconds. In comparison, fetuses whose mothers had gestational diabetes responded in an average of 296 milliseconds.

“The findings tell us the brain function of the fetus is influenced by its mother’s metabolism,” said Dr. Preissl. “Our theory is that the mother’s metabolism programs her child’s metabolism in a manner that may have consequences for the child’s obesity and diabetes risk later in life.”

SOURCE: The Endocrine Society
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