Asian and South Asian women are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes than women of Caucasian heritage, says University of Toronto research.
The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, highlights the effect of ethnicity and obesity on insulin resistance during late pregnancy. While a high body mass index and ethnicity have already independently been linked to onset of diabetes, this study is the first to point out that ethnicity can further magnify obesity’s effect on insulin sensitivity. Researchers tested healthy pregnant women – 116 Caucasian, 31 South Asian and 28 Asian – who had been referred to ambulatory obstetrics clinics with an abnormal response to a 50 grams of glucose screening test. Using the data from diagnostic oral glucose tolerance tests, the researchers were able to demonstrate that ethnicity was an independent determinant of insulin sensitivity. The findings further emphasize the need for ethnicity-specific thresholds for overweight and obesity, says the study’s senior author, Professor Bernard Zinman of the Faculty of Medicine’s Division of Endocrinology. “This appears to be particularly relevant for women in the reproductive age group,” Zinman says. “Obesity during pregnancy can affect races differently and we’ve found that it’s particularly important for Asian and South Asian women to enter pregnancy at an ideal weight to avoid complications such as gestational diabetes.” (Source: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: University of Toronto: March 2006.)