Gestational Diabetes and Environmental Chemical Exposure

June 23, 2015
10:00 am US Eastern Time

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While the scientific evidence is strong linking environmental chemical exposures to type 2 diabetes, the evidence on how chemicals may influence the development of other types of diabetes is only just beginning. This call will present evidence on the relationship between environmental chemicals and gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that appears during pregnancy, and resolves after childbirth. However, women who develop gestational diabetes have a seven-fold increased risk of later developing type 2 diabetes, as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and dysfunction. In populations with a high risk of type 1 diabetes, women who develop gestational diabetes also have an increased risk of later developing type 1 diabetes.

Maternal diabetes is also associated with risks for the offspring. Complications of a pregnancy with diabetes include large birth weight, low blood sugar in the newborn, respiratory distress syndrome, jaundice, birth defects, and sudden infant death. In the long-term, offspring are at greater risk of overweight/obesity and adverse cardiometabolic outcomes.

On this call three experts joined CHE to discuss their research on gestational diabetes and environmental chemicals. Their research includes studies of both humans and animals, and a variety of different chemicals, from BPA to air pollution.

Featured Speakers

Dr. Paloma Alonso-Magdalena, PhD, Assistant Professor, Institute of Bioengineering, Miguel Hernández University, Spain. Dr. Alonso-Magdalena graduated from University of Oviedo (Spain) and completed her PhD at Miguel Hernandez University (Spain). After a postdoctoral training in the Department of Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, (Sweden) about the physiology of estrogen receptor ERβ, she is now an Assistant Professor of Nutrition and principal investigator at Miguel Hernández University of Elche, Alicante, Spain. She is particularly interested in understanding which is the role of the endocrine disruptors in the etiology of type 2 diabetes. Her research interest also includes the role of estrogens and their receptors in the physiology of the endocrine pancreas and how estrogens influence the plasticity of the islet of Langerhans during the adaptation to pregnancy and obesity.

Dr. Megan Romano, PhD, MPH, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for Environmental Health & Technology, Brown University. Dr. Romano is an environmental and perinatal epidemiologist. She was a pre-doctoral fellow in the University of Washington’s Reproductive, Perinatal, and Pediatric Epidemiology Training Program (funded by T32HD052462 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH). Her dissertation research investigated the association of maternal cadmium body burden during pregnancy with maternal risk of gestational diabetes and risk of decreased size at birth among newborns. As a postdoctoral research associate, her current research focuses on the association of gestational exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds, including bisphenol A, phthalates, perfluoroalkyl acids, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, with complications of pregnancy, fetal growth, and childhood obesity. She was recently awarded the 2015 Michael Shannon Research Award from the Academic Pediatric Association for her work examining the relation between maternal urinary bisphenol A during pregnancy and thyroid hormones in maternal and cord sera.

Dr. Candace Robledo, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Director of MPH Maternal & Child Health Concentration, School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of North Texas. Dr. Robledo is a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist and her areas of research include maternal and child health, environmental epidemiology and health disparities. As a doctoral student she assessed associations between environmental chemical exposures, diagnosis of gestational diabetes and blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Dr. Robledo has completed two training fellowships through the National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Training Award program with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Most recently, as a postdoctoral fellow she explored the relationship between air pollution exposures before and during pregnancy with a woman’s subsequent risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. In addition, she explored how maternal and paternal levels of persistent organic pollutants are associated with the birth size of their infants. Dr. Robledo is also a Fellow of the Oklahoma Interdisciplinary Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program. The OK LEND program trains health care professions for leadership roles with interdisciplinary skills to support community-based partnerships with professional colleagues, clients and families.

The call was moderated by Sarah Howard, National Coordinator of CHE's Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group.