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ADHD link to diabetes in pregnancy

10th January 2012

Babies whose mothers had gestational diabetes are at high risk of developing ADHD, according to a recent statistical study.

pregnancy

Gestational diabetes refers to a type of diabetes which seems to develop during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

It is especially common among women who are overweight during pregnancy, and rates of occurrence are also rising.

Study author Yoko Nomura, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said that people with subtle problems like ADHD, who had better food, better intellectual stimuli, and better health care, might be able to surmount the challenges that their disabilities brought them.

She said that, however, for people born into a harsher, more adverse environment, one tiny little problem could act as a bigger hindrance developmentally.

Ginette Dionne, a professor who has studied gestational diabetes at Laval University in Quebec, but wasn't involved in the new study, said that there seemed to be more research going in the direction that the brains of children with ADHD were different.

She said that, while researchers were not sure what could be causing such differences, gestational diabetes did not seem to affect all babies equally.

For the study, the researchers used standard measurements of cognition to test children of mothers who had gestational diabetes.

The researchers tested language, memory, and IQ.

On average, such children had more communication and attention problems by age six than other children.

Statistically, children of impoverished mothers who had gestational diabetes were 14 times as likely to meet the ADHD diagnostic criteria by age six.

On the other hand, children from middle-class backgrounds and children from rich families did not score as badly on the tests.

Having gestational diabetes can affect the way blood flow gets to other parts of the body, including a developing foetus, as well as affecting the way glucose passes to the placenta, which may interfere with brain development.

Asher Ornoy, who studies the effects of gestational diabetes at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, said that taking preventive measures by being diagnosed early, as well as having good nutrition in pregnancy and avoiding being overweight, were all very important.

He said that gestational diabetes was relatively common.

In recent decades, rates of gestational diabetes have risen alongside rates of type II diabetes.

The diagnosis of ADHD, for decades based only on subjective measurements, is also becoming more sophisticated, thanks to technology that allows scientists to look at the physical structure of the brain.

 

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