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Body Mass Index (BMI) Thresholds for Increased Risk of Gestational Diabetes

OAKLAND, Calif., May 22, 2012 – Body Mass Index (BMI) thresholds for increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) vary by racial/ethnic group, according to Kaiser Permanente Division of Research investigators.  Asian and Filipina women had an increased risk of GDM at a lower BMI cut point, particularly as compared with non-Hispanic white and African American women.

The study which appeared in the May 22 online edition of Diabetes Care, is among the first to examine the association between GDM and BMI by racial/ethnic group.

“Among all racial/ethnic groups, the age-adjusted prevalence of GDM increased with increasing BMI,” according to Monique Hedderson, PhD, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Division of research and the lead author of this study.

Hedderson further  explained that Asian and Filipina women had a prevalence of 9.9 and 8.5 percent respectively at a BMI of 22.0-24.9 kg/m2, whereas in Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and African American women, the prevalence of GDM  was greater than 8.0 percent at higher BMI (such as 28-30, 34-36 and greater than or equal to 37 Kg/m2) respectively.

“Overall, the study found that strategies to increase the proportion of women entering pregnancy at an optimal weight could potentially eliminate 23-65 percent of GDM, depending on the racial/ethnic group.”

“However, the fact that a much smaller proportion of GDM would be eliminated by ensuring Asian women enter pregnancy at an optimal weight, suggests that Asian women may benefit from prevention strategies in addition to weight management. We need more research into the underlying causes of GDM in Asian women before we can determine what those prevention strategies should be,” explained Hedderson.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is carbohydrate intolerance with onset of or first recognition during pregnancy and is one of the most common pregnancy complications in the United States, according to the investigators. GDM is associated with increased risk for babies, and in the long term, women with GDM have an almost seven-fold increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy. The prevalence of GDM has increased in all racial/ethnic groups in recent decades, explain the research scientists.

Researchers examined a cohort of 123, 040 women without recognized pre-pregnancy diabetes who delivered babies between 1995 and 2006 at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.  Researchers examined racial/ethnic disparities in the prevalence of GDM by BMI category and the risk associated with overweight/obesity.

Additional authors on the study included Samantha Ehrlich, PhD; Sneha Sridhar, MPH; Jeanne Darbinian, MPH; Susan Moore, PhD; and Assiamira Ferara, MD, PhD [Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Division of Research].

About the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research

The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research conducts, publishes and disseminates epidemiologic and health services research to improve the health and medical care of Kaiser Permanente members and the society at large. It seeks to understand the determinants of illness and well-being and to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. Currently, DOR’s 600-plus staff is working on more than 250 epidemiological and health services research projects.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to:


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