Aims/hypothesis: To determine the extent to which gestational fasting and postload levels of glucose explain differences in infant fat mass between UK-born Pakistani and white British infants.
Methods: Analyses were undertaken in a prospective pregnancy cohort study of 1,415 women and their singleton live-born infants (629 white British and 786 Pakistani). Infant fat mass was assessed by cord-blood leptin levels and fetal insulin secretion by cord-blood insulin levels. Maternal OGTTs were completed at 26-28 weeks of gestation.
Results: Pakistani women had higher fasting and postload glucose levels and greater incidence of gestational diabetes than white British women. Higher fasting and postload glucose levels were associated with higher cord-blood levels of insulin and leptin in all participants, irrespective of ethnicity. Cord-blood leptin levels were 16% (95% CI 6, 26) higher in Pakistani than in white British infants. After adjustment for fasting glucose levels, this difference attenuated to 7% (-3, 16), and with additional adjustment for cord-blood insulin levels it attenuated further to 5% (-4, 14). Path analyses supported the hypothesis that fasting glucose levels mediate the relationship of Pakistani ethnicity to greater fat mass at birth, as measured by cord-blood leptin levels; on average, 19% of this mediation involved fetal insulin secretion. Postload glucose levels did not act as an important mediator of ethnic differences in cord-blood leptin levels. Results were very similar when 130 women with gestational diabetes were removed.
Conclusions/interpretation: These novel findings suggest a role of maternal pregnancy glycaemia in mediating differences in fat mass between Pakistani and white British infants.