PORTLAND, ORE., – More than 10 percent of women of Chinese and Korean heritage may be at risk for developing diabetes during pregnancy, according to a Kaiser Permanente study of 16,000 women in Hawaii that appears in the December issue of the Ethnicity and Disease journal. The study also found that Korean-American and Chinese-American women’s gestational diabetes risk is one-third higher than average – and more than double that of Caucasian and African-American women.
Funded by the American Diabetes Association, the study found that Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, and Samoans are also at higher-than-average risk – while Caucasian, Native-American, and African-American women have a lower-than-average risk.
Untreated gestational diabetes mellitus, commonly known as GDM, can lead to serious pregnancy and birthing complications, including early delivery and C-sections. It can also increase the child’s risk of developing obesity later in life.
“This study underscores Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to identify differences in risk and clinical outcomes for different ethnic and racial groups,” said Winston F. Wong, MD, MS, medical director of Kaiser Permanente’s Community Benefit Disparities Improvement and Quality Initiatives.
While previous studies have shown that GDM is more prevalent among Asian women and Pacific Islanders, this is the first study to separate those ethnic groups into sub-categories to find out who is at higher risk.
“Many previous studies have lumped all Asians and Pacific Islanders together – we now know that the risk for developing GDM varies greatly depending on your specific ethnic background,” said study co-author Teresa Hillier, MD, MS, an endocrinologist and senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. “Future studies should also look at whether women in these higher risk groups also have more complications.”