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More than 1 in 10 immigrant women develop gestational diabetes

October 4, 2011 Toronto

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a common form of diabetes that is transient to pregnancy. New research done at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and St. Michael’s Hospital show it is more common among certain non-Caucasian ethnic groups. But previous studies have classified women using terms like "Asian,” which disregards evident differences between South and East Asians, in terms of genetics and diet.

“Maternal world region of birth may help us to better identify in early pregnancy those immigrant women at highest risk for developing GDM, and who might benefit from dietary and activity modification in early pregnancy,” says Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences (ICES) researcher and St. Michael’s Hospital physician Dr. Joel Ray.

The study looked at the risk of GDM among a large and diverse cohort of 770,875 consecutive deliveries in Ontario, including 118,849 deliveries among immigrants and found:

  • Canadian-born women had 3 per cent rate of GDM.
  • Immigrant women from the Middle East and North Africa had a 1.7 times higher risk of developing GDM than Canadian-born women.
  • Women from East Asia had a 2 times higher risk of developing GDM than their Canadian-born counterparts.
  • Women from South Asia had a 3.5 times higher risk of GDM compared to Canadian-born women.

“These findings might also help in deciding which women should be screened for adult-onset (type 2 diabetes), since GDM is a well recognized long-term risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” says Ray.

Author block: Marcelo Urquia, Richard H. Glazier, Howard Berger, Ivan Ying, Leanne De Souza and Joel G. Ray.

The research letter “Gestational Diabetes Among Immigrant Women,” is being published in the November issue of Epidemiology.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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