Intrauterine diabetic environment confers risks for type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity in the offspring, in addition to genetic susceptibility

J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Sep-Oct;14(8):1085-91. doi: 10.1515/jpem-2001-0803.


Numerous studies have reported that offspring whose mothers had type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) are more likely to develop type 2 DM, impaired glucose tolerance, and obesity at an early age than offspring whose fathers had DM. Exposure to the diabetic intrauterine environment has been shown to be an important risk factor for all these conditions. To what extent transmission of type 2 DM from mother to offspring is the effect of genetic inheritance and to what extent it is the long-term consequence of exposure to maternal hyperglycemia is still uncertain. There are, of course, interactions between the diabetic intrauterine environment and genetics. Several data in experimental animals as well as in humans suggest, however, that exposure of the fetus to the mother's DM confers a risk for type 2 DM and obesity that is above any genetically transmitted susceptibility. In the Pima Indian population much of the increase in childhood type 2 DM can be attributed to the diabetic intrauterine environment. This suggests that intensive glucose control during pregnancy might have extended beneficial effects, contributing to a decrease in the prevalence of childhood type 2 DM.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors