Maternal glycemic index and glycemic load in pregnancy and offspring metabolic health in childhood and adolescence—a cohort study of 68,471 mother–offspring dyads from the Danish National Birth Cohort

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Springer Nature, ISSN 0954-3007

Volume 73, 7, 2019

DOI:10.1038/s41430-018-0316-6, Dimensions: pub.1107206573, PMID: 30250133,



  1. (1) Imperial College London, grid.7445.2
  2. (2) State Serum Institute, grid.6203.7
  3. (3) Danish Diabetes Academy, grid.484078.7
  4. (4) Rigshospitalet, grid.475435.4, Capital Region
  5. (5) University of the Faroe Islands, grid.449708.6
  6. (6) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  7. (7) Aarhus University, grid.7048.b, AU
  8. (8) University of Iceland, grid.14013.37
  9. (9) AstraZeneca (Sweden), grid.418151.8
  10. (10) National University Hospital of Iceland, grid.410540.4
  11. (11) National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, grid.420089.7
  12. (12) Harvard University, grid.38142.3c
  13. (13) Technical University of Denmark, grid.5170.3, DTU


BACKGROUND: High glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) as indicators of carbohydrate quality and quantity have been found to increase risk of metabolic outcomes in adults. Whether carbohydrate quality may influence metabolic programming already in early life is unknown. We examined the association of maternal GI and GL with offspring body mass index (BMI) in the first 7 years of life among 68,471 mother-offspring dyads from the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC). In a sub-cohort of offspring with clinical data (n = 1234) that included 608 dyads exposed to gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), we also examined the relation to metabolic health at 9-16 years. METHODS: Maternal GI and GL were quantified using a mid-pregnancy food frequency questionnaire. We used birth weight and length to calculate offspring's ponderal index. Age- and sex-specific BMI z scores at 5 mo, 12 mo, and 7 y were standardized against WHO reference data. In the clinical cohort, we quantified body composition, HOMA-IR, and HOMA-B. We used multivariable mixed linear and Poisson regression to model the associations. RESULTS: Median (IQR) of GI and GL were 83 (63-111) and 241 (180-333) g/day, respectively. We found that GI (Q4 vs. Q1:1.09, 95%CI: 1.03, 1.15) and GL (Q4 vs. Q1:1.10, 95%CI: 1.05, 1.16) modestly increased the relative risk of large-for gestational age (LGA). In the clinical sub-cohort, we observed a potential increase in offspring HOMA-IR, adiposity, and metabolic syndrome z score with higher maternal GI and GI. These associations were stronger among the GDM-exposed offspring, but the CI included the null value. CONCLUSION: We found associations of GI and GL in pregnancy with offspring LGA. Potential long-term benefits to offspring exposed to GDM need to be confirmed in larger, well-powered studies.

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University of Copenhagen

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Technical University of Denmark

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Research area: Medicine

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