The role of metal trace elements from the diet in gestational diabetes

Dr Sara White, Professor Lucilla Poston, Mr Paul Seed, Dr Angela Flynn, Dr Carolyn Gill, Ms Anna Brockbank, the London Metallomic Facilty (LMF) at King’s College London.

Our researchers are studying how metal trace elements found in food are involved in gestational diabetes. This could lead to new ways to diagnose or treat the condition, helping to protect the health of mother and baby.

Why do we need this research?

Developing diabetes during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes, can cause health problems for both mother and baby. We know that a woman’s diet is important during pregnancy, and that it might have a role to play in gestational diabetes.

In many of the foods we eat, there are small amounts of metals like iron, calcium, iodine, magnesium, zinc, and copper. These ‘trace elements’ are important in helping our body function as it should. However, we don’t know enough about their role during pregnancy.

What’s happening in this project?

Researchers funded by Tommy’s are studying whether the presence of metal trace elements are linked with pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes. Previous research has often just looked at one metal element on its own. Our researchers want to look at lots of different trace elements together to create a ‘metallo-profile’ for pregnant women.

The team will use blood samples donated by women who took part in a study called UPBEAT. This trial recruited 1,500 women with obesity, who donated blood samples throughout their pregnancy. Our researchers will study in detail the metal trace elements found in blood samples from early pregnancy (15-18 weeks). By look at a range of metal elements, our scientists will be able to create a metallo-profile of women who later developed diabetes, and compare it to that of women who didn’t. This could make it easier to diagnose gestational diabetes in the future.

What difference will this project make?

This study will identify the role that metal trace elements from food have in gestational diabetes. The results could lead to new methods to diagnose the condition early, or even new ways to treat it. Ultimately, our scientists hope to improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy for mother and baby.

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