Weight of newborn babies influenced by parental diabetes

January 9, 2003

Brussels, 6 January 2003

According to a British research project, the weight of newborn babies is significantly influenced by diabetes in parents. In particular, the weight of a newborn whose father has diabetes is more likely to be lower than other babies: 186 grams below the average.

The data was collected from a survey that was carried out in Britain over a 41 year period. Out of over 11,000 participants, 34 men with diabetes had fathered children and 24 mothers had developed diabetes during their pregnancy. The findings, which were recently published in the British Medical Journal, rule out any association between a father's height or social standing and birth weight of his newborn baby, or the birth order and weight of an offspring.

The paper states: ' Diabetes in fathers and the birth weight of their offspring are strongly associated, according to data from the 1958 birth cohort.' This new data also helps to substantiate previous findings of '[...] increased risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes for the fathers of children with low birth weight in native Americans and Swedish populations'.

In contrast, the paper points out that the weight of an offspring whose mother has diabetes is higher than average. However, the results suggest that there are other deciding factors for mothers who develop diabetes, 'The association between maternal diabetes and the child's birth weight, however, is likely to reflect immediate effects of the mother's metabolic control, possibly masking genetic effects operating in the opposite direction [...it] may also reflect the different intervals between the onset of diabetes and the timing of births.'

The data collected in this paper helps to support the theory that 'common genetic factors contribute both to the risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes and decreased prenatal growth.'

For further information, please see here

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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