Honoring National Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day

In honor of National Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day, we wanted to highlight important research available at the Center for Total Health.  The study is one of the largest and most ethnically diverse to look at maternal diabetes as a risk factor for autism.  Many have probably heard of other suspected causes, but time and time again guests at the center are surprised to hear that children whose mothers developed gestational diabetes by the 26th week of pregnancy were at increased risk of developing autism later in life, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on April 14, 2015.  And that’s just a sample of the power of an electronic health record (EHR).

“Kaiser Permanente is uniquely qualified to conduct large scale studies in a real-word setting with the power of our integrated, comprehensive electronic health record,” said lead author Anny Xiang, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation.  “We can follow many women through the electronic health records and assess potential links between historical information and their own health outcomes, and their children’s health outcomes. The large size is particularly important to study rare diseases such as autism spectrum disorders. Appropriate analysis of these data can reveal important findings which could impact our approach to patient care.” She noted that this was an observational study, therefore the findings reveal associations between gestational diabetes and risk of a child developing autism rather than proving a cause and effect relationship.

Researchers examined the electronic health records of more than 322,000 ethnically diverse children born between 28 and 44 weeks at Kaiser Permanente Southern California medical centers between January 1995 and December 2009.  They followed the children for an average of 5.5 years and found that those exposed to gestational diabetes by the 26th week of pregnancy had a 63% increased risk of being diagnose with an autism spectrum disorder than children who were not exposed.  After taking into account maternal age, education, race and ethnicity, household income and other factors, the increased risk of autism associated with gestational diabetes was 42 percent.

For more information on the study, click here.

To learn more about this and other innovation at Kaiser Permanente, visit the Center for Total Health.

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