Maternal obesity as a risk factor for early childhood type 1 diabetes: a nationwide, prospective, population-based case-control study

Diabetologia. 2018 Jan;61(1):130-137. doi: 10.1007/s00125-017-4481-2. Epub 2017 Nov 2.


Aims/hypothesis: Genetic and environmental factors are believed to cause type 1 diabetes. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of maternal BMI and gestational weight gain on the subsequent risk of childhood type 1 diabetes.

Methods: Children in the Swedish National Quality Register for Diabetes in Children were matched with control children from the Swedish Medical Birth Register. Children were included whose mothers had data available on BMI in early pregnancy and gestational weight gain, giving a total of 16,179 individuals: 3231 children with type 1 diabetes and 12,948 control children.

Results: Mothers of children with type 1 diabetes were more likely to be obese (9% [n = 292/3231] vs 7.7% [n = 991/12,948]; p = 0.02) and/or have diabetes themselves (2.8% [n = 90/3231] vs 0.8% [n = 108/12,948]; p < 0.001) compared with mothers of control children. Gestational weight gain did not differ significantly between the two groups of mothers. In mothers without diabetes, maternal obesity was a significant risk factor for type 1 diabetes in the offspring (p = 0.04). A child had an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes if the mother had been obese in early pregnancy (crude OR 1.20; 95% CI 1.05, 1.38; adjusted OR 1.18; 95% CI 1.02, 1.36). Among children with type 1 diabetes (n = 3231) there was a difference (p < 0.001) in age at onset in relation to the mother's BMI. Among children in the oldest age group (15-19 years), there were more mothers who had been underweight during pregnancy, while in the youngest age group (0-4 years) the pattern was reversed.

Conclusions/interpretation: Maternal obesity, in the absence of maternal diabetes, is a risk factor for type 1 diabetes in the offspring, and influences the age of onset of type 1 diabetes. This emphasises the importance of a normal maternal BMI to potentially decrease the incidence of type 1 diabetes.

Keywords: Age at onset; BMI; Gestational weight gain; Obesity; Pregnancy; Type 1 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult