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Epidemiology and Population Health

Maternal gestational diabetes and childhood adiposity risk from 6 to 8 years of age



Previous studies found conflicting results on the association between maternal gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and childhood overweight/obesity. This study was to assess the association between maternal GDM and offspring’s adiposity risk from 6 to 8 years of age.


The present study longitudinally followed 1156 mother-child pairs (578 GDM and 578 non-GDM) at 5.9 ± 1.2 years postpartum and retained 912 mother-child pairs (486 GDM and 426 non-GDM) at 8.3 ± 1.6 years postpartum. Childhood body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, body fat and skinfold were measured using standardized methods.


Compared with the counterparts born to mothers with normal glucose during pregnancy, children born to mothers with GDM during pregnancy had higher mean values of adiposity indicators (waist circumference, body fat, subscapular skinfold and suprailiac skinfold) at 5.9 and 8.3 years of age. There was a positive association of maternal GDM with changes of childhood adiposity indicators from the 5.9-year to 8.3-year visit, and β values were significantly larger than zero: +0.10 (95% CI: 0.02–0.18) for z score of BMI for age, +1.46 (95% CI: 0.70–2.22) cm for waist circumference, +1.78% (95% CI: 1.16%-2.40%) for body fat, +2.40 (95% CI: 1.78–3.01) mm for triceps skinfold, +1.59 (95% CI: 1.10–2.09) mm for subscapular skinfold, and +2.03 (95% CI: 1.35–2.71) mm for suprailiac skinfold, respectively. Maternal GDM was associated with higher risks of childhood overweight/obesity, central obesity, and high body fat (Odd ratios 1.41–1.57 at 5.9 years of age and 1.73–2.03 at 8.3 years of age) compared with the children of mothers without GDM.


Maternal GDM was a risk factor of childhood overweight/obesity at both 5.9 and 8.3 years of age, which was independent from several important confounders including maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain, children’s birth weight and lifestyle factors. This significant and positive association became stronger with age.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2: Forest plot of odds ratios for the association of maternal gestational diabetes mellitus with indicators of childhood adiposity at the 5.9-year and 8.3-year visits based on the intention-to-treat analyses.

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Data availability

The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This study was supported by grants from the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD)/Chinese Diabetes Society (CDS)/Lilly programme for Collaborative Research between China and Europe, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK100790). Dr. Hu was partially supported by the grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK132011), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (U54GM104940), and the Public University Partnership Program at the Louisiana Department of Health, Bureau of Health Services Financing.

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Authors and Affiliations



W.L. and G.H. conceived and designed the study. L.W., H.L., S.Z., W.L. and J.L. performed the fieldwork and collected data. W.L. and G.H. performed the statistical analysis, interpreted the data, and drafted the article. X.Y., Z.Y. and A.S. provided major comments to the manuscript. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version. W.L. and G.H. were responsible for the integrity of the work as a whole.

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Correspondence to Weiqin Li or Gang Hu.

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Li, W., Wang, L., Liu, H. et al. Maternal gestational diabetes and childhood adiposity risk from 6 to 8 years of age. Int J Obes 48, 414–422 (2024).

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