DHA and predisposition to type 2 diabetes in the offspring of gestational diabetic mothers

 
 
 

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy and goes away after childbirth (diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are too high). Newborns of mothers that have suffered gestational diabetes have lower cord plasma DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) levels and are more susceptible to the development of type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Leading to the question: Is DHA involved in this susceptibility?

In adults, youth and children, DHA content in cell membranes and plasma has been associated with insulin sensitivity (someone “insulin sensitive” will require smaller amounts of insulin to lower blood glucose levels than someone who has low sensitivity) and DHA levels of plasma and tissues, with insulin resistance (reduced sensitivity to insulin): higher levels have been related with improved insulin action. It has been proposed that the low intrauterine availability of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA is one of the most important) could explain the higher incidence of insulin resistance in the offspring of mothers that have suffered gestational diabetes.

In the first human study on the associations between circulating levels of fatty acids and fetal insulin sensitivity, a team a Canadian researchers have compared newborns of gestational diabetics with newborns of non-diabetic pregnancies, concluding as follows: cord plasma DHA levels were lower in newborns of gestational diabetics and, on the other hand, lower cord plasma DHA levels were associated with lower fetal insulin sensitivity. This is to say, low circulating DHA levels are associated with compromised fetal insulin sensitivity, and may be involved the predisposition to type 2 diabetes in the offspring of gestational diabetic mothers.

These findings suggest the potential of DHA supplementation to decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the future.

 

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