Gestational diabetes increases risk of ADHD two-fold in offspring

Children exposed to maternal gestational diabetes and low socioeconomic status are twice as likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at age six years, according to research published in the January 2 Online First edition of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers followed 212 preschool-aged children for this study. In addition to ADHD diagnoses at age six years, they noted neurobehavioral and cognitive functioning, ADHD symptoms, and temperment at age four years. The scientists also took into account the behavioral and emotional problems of the children at age six years as reported by parents and teachers.

The data showed that both maternal gestational diabetes and low socioeconomic status were associated with an approximately two-fold increased risk for ADHD diagnosis at six years of age, according to the report.

Children exposed to gestational diabetes and low socioeconomic economic status in combination exhibited lower IQ, poorer language, and lower behavioral and emotional functioning.

Neither children exposed to maternal gestational diabetes alone nor those exposed to low socioeconomic status alone had a significant increased risk for ADHD.

The study found that the risk by gestational diabetes was greater among lower socioeconomic mothers than by higher socioeconomic mothers.

“Long-term prevention efforts should be directed at mothers with [gestational diabetes mellitus] to avoid suboptimal neurobehavioral development and mitigate the risk for ADHD among their offspring,” according to the research study authors from City University of New York, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and New School in New York.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common childhood disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms include inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity.

While it's not clear what causes ADHD, studies suggest that genetics may play a large role. Other possible factors under investigation include environmental exposures during pregnancy and childhood such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, lead, and food additives.

Sources: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, National Institute of Mental Health

photo by John Nyboer

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