Differences in the implications of maternal lipids on fetal metabolism and growth between gestational diabetes mellitus and control pregnancies

Diabet Med. 2011 Sep;28(9):1053-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2011.03346.x.


Aims: To evaluate the potential contribution of maternal glucose and lipids to fetal metabolic variables and growth in pregnancies with normal glucose tolerance in comparison with pregnancies with well-controlled gestational diabetes previously reported by us.

Methods: In 190 pregnancies with normal oral glucose tolerance tests (controls), insulin, glucose and lipid components were determined in maternal and arterial cord blood serum. Birthweight and neonatal fat mass were obtained after delivery. Values were adjusted for maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, Caesarean section and gestational age. Measurements were compared with those of gestational diabetes previously reported.

Results: Maternal serum glucose, triacylglycerol, free fatty acid and cholesterol levels did not differ between control pregnancies and those with gestational diabetes, whereas insulin, homeostasis model assessment and glycerol values were significantly lower in the former (2.6 vs. 5.6 μmol/l and 176 vs. 193 μmol/l, respectively). In contrast, cord blood glucose and free fatty acids were significantly lower in control pregnancies than in those with gestational diabetes (3.9 vs. 4.4 mmol/l and 80.7 vs. 137 μmol/l, respectively); the same was valid for insulin (0.03 vs. 0.05 nmol/l) and homeostasis model assessment (1.0 vs. 1.87). In control pregnancies, maternal serum glucose, free fatty acids and glycerol correlated with those in cord blood, but not with neonatal weight and fat mass, as seen for free fatty acids in those with gestational diabetes. The negative correlation between cord blood triacylglycerols and neonatal weight or fat mass previously reported in gestational diabetes could not be confirmed in control pregnancies, where all fetal lipids showed a positive correlation to neonatal anthropometrics.

Conclusion: In normal pregnancies, in contrast to those with gestational diabetes, maternal lipids do not influence neonatal weight. Similar levels of maternal lipids in pregnancies with gestational diabetes and control pregnancies, but higher free fatty acids in the cord blood of those with gestational diabetes, indicate their enhanced placental transport and/or enhanced lipolysis as a result of decreased fetal insulin responsiveness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Berlin
  • Birth Weight
  • Diabetes, Gestational / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism*
  • Fetal Development
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Pregnancy
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Lipids
  • Triglycerides