Home / News / India /  South Asian women more likely to get Type 2 diabetes during pregnancy: Study

A recent study published in eLife has shown that South Asian women or women with South Asian origin are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes during their pregnancy. The discovery is expected to identify probable patients who require intervention to prevent gestational diabetes or getting diabetic during pregnancy. 

"Our results support the idea that type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes share a common genetic background," concluded senior author Sonia Anand, the Michael G. DeGroote Chair in Population Health, and a senior scientist at PHRI, McMaster University, and Hamilton Health Sciences. "If future studies confirm our results, this information may help identify which women would benefit most from interventions to help prevent diabetes during pregnancy."

What is type-2 diabetes?

According to Mayo clinic, Type 2 diabetes is an impairment in the way the body regulates and uses sugar (glucose) as a fuel. This long-term (chronic) condition results in too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Eventually, high blood sugar levels can lead to disorders of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is when a blood sugar test during pregnancy reveals high blood sugar levels thereby proving that the body is not producing enough insulin and or resisting insulin. 

Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby's health.

Why are South Asian women at risk?

People of South Asian descent have an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women in this group are also twice as likely to develop a condition called gestational diabetes during pregnancy than women of European descent. But why South Asians are at an increased risk of these two conditions is not currently clear.

The experiment

Researchers assessed the relationship between genes associated with type 2 diabetes, environmental factors, and gestational diabetes. They examined whether having genetic signatures linked with type 2 diabetes risk is also connected with gestational diabetes in 837 and 4,372 South Asian women.

The team measured the genetic risk of type 2 diabetes using a polygenic risk score, which estimates the hereditary risk of an individual developing a disease based on the number of risk alleles they have. The researchers found that South Asian women with higher type 2 diabetes polygenic risk scores also had a higher risk of gestational diabetes; each incremental increase in the score was associated with a 45% increase in the risk of developing this condition.

When the scientists studied the gestational diabetes risk at the population level, they found that having a polygenic risk score in the highest one-third explained 12.5% of the risk of developing this condition in South Asian women. When they combined a family history of type 2 diabetes and having a polygenic risk score in the top third, it explained 25% of the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

"These results show that a higher type 2 diabetes polygenic risk score and a family history of diabetes are strongly and independently associated with gestational diabetes in women of South Asian descent," explained Lamri.

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