Smoking during pregnancy linked to diabetes in offspring

By John Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters Health) – The children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity, new research suggests.

Drs. Scott Montgomery and Anders Ekbom from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, used data from the British National Child Development Study of around 17,000 births between 3 and 9 March 1958.

In the study, midwives obtained information on smoking during pregnancy, and smoking amongst mothers was also recorded in 1974. Further data were collected during examinations and record reviews when the children reached the ages of 7 and 16 years. Medical records were reviewed at 33 years, when participants were questioned about diabetes.

As reported in the British Medical Journal for January 5, 15 men and 13 women among those followed throughout childhood and adolescence developed type 2 diabetes between the ages of 16 and 33.

The research team found that the odds ratio (OR) for diabetes was 4.55 in the offspring of those who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day compared with non-smokers. The OR in offspring of mothers who smoked fewer than 10 a day was increased by a factor of 4.13.

The team also found that smoking during pregnancy increased the risk of obesity independently of diabetes, with OR of 1.38 for children of women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day.

"These are conservative figures, as further members of the study group are likely to go on to develop these disorders in later life," Dr. Montgomery said in an interview. "To my knowledge, this is the first study to show an association between smoking in pregnancy and diabetes," he noted.

"We have long known about the reduced size and development in the children of smoking mothers. Because diabetes and obesity are associated with heart disease, smoking during pregnancy could also risk shortening the child's lifespan," he added.

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