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

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.
  • Author's list

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

    Start date: 2021
    End date: 2022

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

Why do we need this research?

Diabetes that develops 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 finding out whether deficiencies in metal trace elements can be linked with pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes. Previous research has often 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 included 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 taken early in pregnancy (15–18 weeks). By looking at a range of metal elements, our scientists will be able to create a metallo-profile for the women who later developed diabetes and compare this to the metallo-profile for the 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 help us to understand more about the role that metal trace elements from food have in gestational diabetes. It is possible that metallo-profiles could be used to diagnose the condition early, or to find 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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