Pregnancy glycaemia and cord-blood levels of insulin and leptin in Pakistani and white British mother-offspring pairs: findings from a prospective pregnancy cohort

Diabetologia. 2014 Dec;57(12):2492-500. doi: 10.1007/s00125-014-3386-6. Epub 2014 Oct 3.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes, Gestational / blood
  • Diabetes, Gestational / ethnology*
  • Ethnicity
  • Fasting / blood
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Pakistan / ethnology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Leptin