Doctors' Notes: Researchers link hotter weather to gestational diabetes
There’s a little-known factor that influences whether pregnant women develop gestational diabetes — body temperature.
In my work as an endocrinologist and diabetes researcher, I investigate how our environment can increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes.
Recently, my team and I looked at all of the hospital births in the Greater Toronto Area — more than 55,000 in all — over 12 years to see what kind of impact temperatures might have on the risk of gestational diabetes (known as GDM), a temporary condition that can develop during pregnancy.
We found a relationship between cold weather and a lower likelihood of GDM. When the mercury dropped to an average temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius, the rate of GDM was 4.6 per cent. But at 24 degrees Celsius, the rate rose to 7.7 per cent. And for every 10-degree rise, there were further increases of up to 9 per cent — even when accounting for other risk factors.
Whether the women themselves were born in warm or cool climates, our research team found that colder temperatures still appear to offer some protective benefit to the mothers. Our findings also applied to women who had one child as well as to moms who had multiple children throughout the study’s duration.
More research is needed to better understand the links between temperature and GDM risk, but our findings may have implications for prevention and treatment of the disease. Simple measures like making use of air conditioning and not overdressing in hot weather or keeping the thermostat lower and getting outside in colder weather might help.
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