Elevated liver enzyme levels linked to higher gestational diabetes risk

May 19, 2014

Women with high levels of a common liver enzyme measured prior to pregnancy were twice as likely to subsequently develop gestational diabetes as those with the lowest levels, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published in Diabetes Care.

The liver plays an important role in regulating glucose levels in the body. The liver enzyme, called gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), is a common marker of liver function and has also been associated with insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

“Several biomarkers appear to be associated with the risk of gestational diabetes,” says Monique M. Hedderson, PhD, senior study author. “This study and others we've done provide evidence that women who develop gestational diabetes have metabolic abnormalities even before pregnancy.”

Gestational diabetes is one of the most common complications of pregnancy. It can lead to the birth of larger-than-normal babies and subsequent delivery complications. According to recent studies, women with gestational diabetes are seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, and their children are at greater risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes themselves.

Researchers examined the medical records of 256 women who developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy and compared them with 497 women who did not. Those studied had voluntarily given blood samples between 1985 and 1996 during routine care and subsequently delivered an infant in Kaiser Permanente's Northern California region.

After adjusting for possible confounding factors, including BMI and alcohol use, researchers found that women in the highest quartile of GGT had nearly twice the risk of subsequent gestational diabetes as those in the lowest quartile. No associations were found with two other commonly monitored liver enzymes, alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase. Read the study abstract.

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