Updated 23 November 2016

Mom's age at childbirth tied to son's risk for type 2 diabetes

Boys born to mothers over the age of 34 are more insulin resistant and could face a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.


A woman's age at childbirth may influence how well her son is able to metabolise sugar by the time he becomes an adult, new Belgian research suggests.

In essence, the study suggests that boys born to mothers under the age of 25 or over the age of 34 could face a higher risk for adult type 2 diabetes.

"We found that in a group of healthy men between 25 and 45 years old, sugar handling was related to their mother's age at childbirth," study author Dr. Charlotte Verroken, from the department of endocrinology at Ghent University Hospital, said in an Endocrine Society news release.

"Specifically, sons of mothers under 30 and over 34 years old at childbirth were more insulin resistant than were sons of mothers between 30 and 34 years old," she noted. "Moreover, sons of mothers who were younger than 25 years old at childbirth had higher fasting blood sugar levels than sons of older mothers."

Insulin resistance - often a precursor to diabetes - is a condition whereby the body has trouble using insulin.

Read: Link between low birth weight and diabetes risk

Verroken and her colleagues are scheduled to present their findings on Friday in San Diego at a meeting of the Endocrine Society.

The findings stem from an analysis involving nearly 700 men (including brothers) between the ages of 25 and 45, whose mothers had ranged in age from 15 to 48 when they were born.

All the men were tested for cholesterol, glucose (blood sugar) and insulin levels, and evaluated for insulin resistance.

The result: those whose moms were between 30 and 34 at birth had the lowest fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance. The highest levels of both were found among those whose moms had been under 25 at birth.

The investigators also found the older the mom at childbirth, the heavier the baby at birth. This factor, the authors speculated, might have something to do with the sons' long-range differences in sugar metabolic status.

The study was not designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. It could only point to an association between maternal age at birth and adult diabetes risk in sons. Also, studies presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Read more:

Eating breakfast lowers diabetes risk

Can pre-diabetes lower cancer risk?

Type 2 diabetes and the importance of a healthy diet

Image: Overweight man from Shutterstock


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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