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A Link Between Gestational Diabetes and Childhood Obesity

Treating gestational diabetes -- diabetes during pregnancy -- doesn't just help your health, it can also reduce your baby's chances of being obese later in life. A new study in Diabetes Care found that if the condition (in which insulin resistance is triggered and a woman develops high blood sugar) is untreated, a child's risk of becoming obese by ages 5 to 7 nearly doubles.

"The high sugar levels during pregnancy are believed to cause the fetus to be in an overfed state, which seems to program the baby's metabolism to store more fat," says Teresa Hillier, M.D., lead author of the study and an endocrinologist at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Northwest and Hawaii. If a child is obese by ages 5 to 7, he's more likely to be overweight as an adult and develop obesity-related diabetes.

But when gestational diabetes is treated (with diet modification and sometimes medication), the baby's obesity risk is completely reversed. So make sure you get the standard blood-glucose screens, usually between 24 and 28 weeks, advises Dr. Hillier.

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