Gestational diabetes affects future risk of type 2 for dads

by Barbara Hewitt on August 18, 2015

Gestational diabetes, which affects up to 20% of pregnant women, can increase the risk of a woman getting type 2 diabetes in later life, but now research suggests it can affect fathers as well.

It is well known that women with gestational diabetes are seven times as likely to eventually develop type 2 diabetes but the large study carried out in Canada is the first to look at how it affects men.

researcherA team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal found that the incident of diabetes was 33% greater in men whose partner has gestational diabetes compared with men whose partners did not have gestational diabetes.

“This is the first study to demonstrate a link between gestational diabetes in mothers and diabetes incidence in fathers,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Kaberi Dasgupta, an endocrinologist at the MUHC and an associate professor of Medicine at McGill University.

Prior studies have shown partners to be similar in their weight and physical activity, but the team found evidence in a study conducted last year that spousal diabetes was a diabetes risk factor.

They then hypothesized that gestational diabetes in mothers signals a possible diabetes incidence in fathers. Gestational diabetes occurs when couples are in young to middle adulthood. Diabetes risk factors in these years are of high importance as they offer an opportunity for long term prevention.

The researchers randomly selected singleton live births from 1990 to 2007 with a positive diagnosis for gestational diabetes in mothers and matched controls without gestational diabetes from health administrative, birth and death registry data from the province of Quebec.

Then, they identified fathers with type 2 diabetes from the time of the mother’s post-delivery discharge from the hospital to the father’s departure from Quebec, death or end of the study period. Overall 70,890 fathers were evaluated, half with partners with gestational diabetes.

“Our analysis suggests that couples share risk partly because of their shared social and cultural environment, which may contribute to health behaviours and attitudes,” said Dasgupta. “The study reinforces the findings of our previous study on shared risk for diabetes in spouses, and prior studies indicating that less healthy eating habits and low physical activity could be shared within a household. Our data suggest that gestational diabetes could be leveraged as a tool to enhance diabetes detection and prevention in fathers.”

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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