Compared to women with the lowest levels, women with high levels of a common liver enzyme prior to pregnancy are twice as likely to subsequently develop gestational diabetes, according to Kaiser Permanente’s study published in the Diabetes Care journal. The gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) liver enzyme is a common marker of liver function, which has been associated with insulin resistance. This enzyme can potentially be a precursor to gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

This study is the third in a series using the same cohort of mothers to examine the role of biomarkers prior to pregnancy in predicting the risk of gestational diabetes. The researchers planned to develop a risk model to help identify women who would benefit from interventions during the pre-conception period.

Researchers examined the medical records of 256 women between 1985 and 1996 who developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy and compared them with 497 women who did not. After adjusting for numerous possible confounding factors, including body mass index and alcohol use, the researchers found that women in the highest quartile of GGT had nearly twice the risk of subsequent gestational diabetes than those in the lowest quartile. No associations were found with two other commonly monitored liver enzymes, alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase.

In the previous studies, researchers reported that:

  • Overweight women with low levels of the hormone adiponectin prior to pregnancy were nearly seven times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than normal weight women with high levels.
  • Women with low levels of the sex hormone binding globulin were five times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those with higher levels of the protein.

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