Maternal Dietary Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load in Pregnancy and Offspring Cord Blood DNA Methylation

Diabetes Care. 2022 Aug 1;45(8):1822-1832. doi: 10.2337/dc21-2662.


Objective: Suboptimal nutrition in pregnancy is associated with worse offspring cardiometabolic health. DNA methylation may be an underlying mechanism. We meta-analyzed epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) of maternal dietary glycemic index and load with cord blood DNA methylation.

Research design and methods: We calculated maternal glycemic index and load from food frequency questionnaires and ran EWAS on cord blood DNA methylation in 2,003 mother-offspring pairs from three cohorts. Analyses were additionally stratified by maternal BMI categories. We looked-up the findings in EWAS of maternal glycemic traits and BMI as well as in EWAS of birth weight and child BMI. We examined associations with gene expression in child blood in the online Human Early Life Exposome eQTM catalog and in 223 adipose tissue samples.

Results: Maternal glycemic index and load were associated with cord blood DNA methylation at 41 cytosine-phosphate-guanine sites (CpGs, P < 1.17 × 10-7), mostly in mothers with overweight/obesity. We did not observe overlap with CpGs associated with maternal glycemic traits, BMI, or child birth weight or BMI. Only DNA methylation at cg24458009 and cg23347399 was associated with expression of PCED1B and PCDHG, respectively, in child blood, and DNA methylation at cg27193519 was associated with expression of TFAP4, ZNF500, PPL, and ANKS3 in child subcutaneous adipose tissue.

Conclusions: We observed multiple associations of maternal glycemic index and load during pregnancy with cord blood DNA methylation, mostly in mothers with overweight/obesity; some of these CpGs were associated with gene expression. Additional studies are required to further explore functionality, uncover causality, and study pathways to offspring health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight / genetics
  • Blood Glucose
  • Child
  • DNA Methylation* / genetics
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood
  • Glycemic Index
  • Glycemic Load*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Overweight / genetics
  • Pregnancy


  • Blood Glucose

Associated data

  • figshare/10.2337/figshare.19898830