Incidence of gestational diabetes was compared among Indian and Swedish women by a new study. The study finds that Indian women are younger and leaner than Swedish women when they develop diabetes during pregnancy and also found a gene that raises the risk of gestational diabetes in Swedish women, turned out to have a protective effect in Indian women. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
Gestational diabetes is characterized by impaired insulin production and insulin secretion during pregnancy. The prevalence differs between different populations and can partly be explained by lifestyle and genes. The purpose of the study was therefore to investigate the differences between pregnant women in India and Scandinavia.
"Individuals with Asian origin have two to seven times greater risk of developing the disease compared to Europeans," says Geeti Aurora, a physician in the Indian state of Punjab, and researcher at the Lund University Diabetes Centre who conducted the study in India.
It is the largest study to date comparing gestational diabetes in Europeans and non-Europeans and the first study to compare the incidence of gestational diabetes in India with Sweden.
The result shows that the incidence of gestational diabetes was higher in Indian women than in Swedish women. Indian women are on average ten years younger when they develop the disease; they are also leaner and more insulin sensitive.
"That Indian women seem to develop gestational diabetes already at a lower BMI even though they are insulin sensitive could indicate a more serious defect in insulin secretion," says Rashmi Prasad, a researcher at Lund University's Diabetes Center, who led the study.
The researchers examined 85 previously known risk genes for gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes. One of them could be linked to gestational diabetes in Indian women but not in Swedish. On the contrary, another gene, CRY2, which is of importance to the circadian rhythm, was found to have a protective effect in Indian women but is associated with increased risk in Swedish women.
"It is interesting that the same gene has the opposite effect in the Indian and Swedish population and the question is whether it can be related to the shifting seasons in Scandinavia which don't occur in India," says Rashmi Prasad.
India with its 1.3 billion inhabitants has great genetic differences. People from northern India share similar genetics with individuals from the Middle East, Central Asia, and to some extent Europe, while India's southern population belongs to a more proprietary genetically defined group. The country has the highest number of people with type 2 diabetes in the world, and the number is increasing dramatically.