Gestational diabetes increases risk of NAFLD, says study

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Women who develop gestational diabetes face an increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) later in life, research has found.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, used long-term data to see if gestational diabetes resulted in women becoming more likely to develop NAFLD after 25 years, which is often diagnosed later in adulthood.

The study team examined data on 1,115 women recruited between 1985 and 1986 in American cities who did not have diabetes before becoming pregnant.

The women first reported if they had experienced gestational diabetes. 25 years on, they received blood tests and CT scans on their livers to assess if they had developed NAFLD.

Initially 124 women reported gestational diabetes, and this group were more likely to be overweight than those who did not experience gestational diabetes.

The women who experienced gestational diabetes were also more likely to have developed type 2 diabetes at some point in the following 25 years.

75 women were diagnosed with NAFLD when they were middle aged. Women with gestational diabetes were more than twice as likely have NAFLD compared to those without gestational diabetes.

The researchers suggested that insulin resistance, which occurs when the body has problems making or using the hormone, is central to the development of both NAFLD and gestational diabetes.

Lead researcher Dr. Veeral Ajmera said: “We hope that early identification can promote healthy lifestyle changes that prevent or slow disease progression.

“Pregnancy stresses the body in many ways, one of which is the ability to manage blood sugar. During pregnancy a woman’s body becomes more resistant to insulin, which is the hormone required to decrease the blood sugar.”

The findings were published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.