Previous studies have shown that ADHD is on the rise. Research has also shown that gestational diabetes, a glucose intolerance that develops in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, has been on the rise over the last twenty years, especially among ethnic minorities and low-income families. One team of researchers set out to determine if there was any connection between these rising concerns.
To perform the initial portion of the study, the researchers took a look at 3- and 4-year-olds in the preschools surrounding Queens College. A total of 212 participants, from all levels of income, were recruited. Children were scored as either “at risk” or “typically developing” by their parents and/or teachers. Children who were considered “at risk” had at least six hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. Children who were considered “typically developing” had less than three symptoms in each section.
Overall, children born to women that had gestational diabetes during pregnancy scored higher than children born to women without gestational diabetes, but the hyperactivity scores between the two groups of children were the same during initial testing. This, however, changed when the children reached six years of age. At six years of age, ADHD was twice as likely in children born to mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes than in children whose mothers were not diagnosed with the condition during pregnancy.
Even more alarming results were found when researchers took a look at children who were born to low-income mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Children born to these families were 14 times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnoses than children who had only one factor: low-income or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Researchers also found some other disturbing facts about children born to low-income mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy. These children were more likely to:
- Have a lower IQ
- Have communicative problems
- Have emotional difficulties
- Have behavioral problems
In conclusion, researchers said:
“This study demonstrates that children of mothers with GDM raised in lower [income families] are at a far greater risk for developing ADHD and showing signs of suboptimal neurocognitive and behavioral development. Since ADHD is a disorder with high heritability, efforts to prevent exposure to environmental risks through patient education may help to reduce the nongenetic modifiable risk for ADHD and other developmental problems.”
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