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Women’s Risk For Diabetes Increases If Parents Smoked

Feb 27, 2015

Women whose mothers smoked while pregnant are two to three times as likely to be diabetic as adults….

Fathers who smoked while their daughter was in utero also contribute to an increased diabetes risk, but more research is needed to establish the true effect.

Michele La Merrill, assistant professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Davis, states that, “Our findings are consistent with the idea that gestational environmental chemical exposures can contribute to the development of health and disease.”

The CHDS recruited women who sought obstetric care through Kaiser Permanente Foundation Health Plan in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1959 and 1967.

The data was originally collected to study early risk of breast cancer, which is why sons were not considered in the current study.

In previous studies, fetal exposure to cigarette smoke has also been linked to higher rates of obesity and low birth weight. This study found that birth weight did not affect whether the daughters of smoking parents developed diabetes.

A 1-kg/m2 increase in participants’ mean BMI was linked to paternal smoking during pregnancy, whereas maternal smoking was not significant for BMI. An increased risk of participants’ self-reported type 2 diabetes diagnosis was associated with maternal smoking during pregnancy, whereas paternal smoking was not significant for self-reported diabetes.

La Merrill says, “We found that smoking of parents is by itself a risk factor for diabetes, independent of obesity or birth weight,” “If a parent smokes, you’re not protected from diabetes just because you’re lean.”

Practice Pearls:

  • Participants exposed to only maternal smoking while in utero had three times the risk.
  • Participants exposed to only paternal smoking while in utero had two times the risk.
  • No increased risk for diabetes was found when both parents smoked compared with just the mothers.

M. A. La Merrill, Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the study analyzed data from 1,800 daughters of women who had participated in the Child Health and Development Studies, an ongoing project of the Public Health Institute.