Pregnancy glycaemia and cord-blood levels of insulin and leptin in Pakistani and white British mother-offspring pairs: findings from a prospective pregnancy cohort.

Publication authors

Lawlor DA, West J, Fairley L, Nelson SM, Bhopal RS, Tuffnell D, Freeman DJ, Wright J, Whitelaw DC, Sattar N.



To determine the extent to which gestational fasting and postload levels of glucose explain differences in infant fat mass between UK-born Pakistani and white British infants.


Analyses were undertaken in a prospective pregnancy cohort study of 1,415 women and their singleton live-born infants (629 white British and 786 Pakistani). Infant fat mass was assessed by cord-blood leptin levels and fetal insulin secretion by cord-blood insulin levels. Maternal OGTTs were completed at 26-28 weeks of gestation.


Pakistani women had higher fasting and postload glucose levels and greater incidence of gestational diabetes than whiteBritish women. Higher fasting and postload glucose levels were associated with higher cord-blood levels of insulin and leptin in all participants, irrespective of ethnicity. Cord-blood leptin levels were 16% (95% CI 6, 26) higher in Pakistani than in white British infants. After adjustment for fasting glucose levels, this difference attenuated to 7% (-3, 16), and with additional adjustment for cord-bloodinsulin levels it attenuated further to 5% (-4, 14). Path analyses supported the hypothesis that fasting glucose levels mediate the relationship of Pakistani ethnicity to greater fat mass at birth, as measured by cord-blood leptin levels; on average, 19% of this mediation involved fetal insulin secretion. Postload glucose levels did not act as an important mediator of ethnic differences in cord-blood leptin levels. Results were very similar when 130 women with gestational diabetes were removed.


These novel findings suggest a role of maternal pregnancy glycaemia in mediating differences in fat mass between Pakistani and white British infants.