Gestational diabetes leptinUAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center members and collaborators recently published “Leptin resistance in children with in utero exposure to maternal obesity and gestational diabetes” in the journal of Pediatric Obesity.


The collaborative study was not only cross-departmental at UAB, including the Department of Nutrition Sciences, the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, and the Department of OBGYN, but it also encompassed two experts outside of UAB.

Moreover, this works stems from the American Heart Association funded Strategically Focused Research Network (SFRN) on Obesity award at UAB. Last year, the SFRN on Obesity also supported UCDC members’ research review on obesity as well as three gestational diabetes publications.

Authors note that their review “summarizes the central themes, major findings, successful training of highly motivated and productive fellows, and the innovative collaborations and studies.” Each center outlines recent projects, objectives, and findings in obesity research.

UAB outlined both its obesity clinical and population projects as well as its obesity basic and population projects. Of note, Paula Chandler‐Laney, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences (population), is collaborating with Alan Tita, M.D., professor in the Department of OBGYN (consultant for the clinical project), and colleagues to conduct research investigating cardiometabolic health of women and children.

Researchers note that they came together to understand more about “whether leptin resistance is independent of weight status in children at risk for obesity: particularly for children who were obese due to intrauterine exposure to maternal obesity or gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).”

Leptin is a protein hormone that regulates whole body energy balance by suppressing appetite and increasing energy expenditure in the maintenance of normal body weight. When the body resists leptin, it to the individual experiences more hunger eventually leading to increased fat stores. Ironically, obesity is both associated with inducing and being exacerbated by leptin resistance.

In this study, 175 mother-child dyads were followed to interrogate the relationship between in utero exposure to maternal obesity or GDM and a child’s leptin resistance. While authors originally hypothesized that in utero exposure to these metabolic factors would induce leptin resistance in the child, researchers ultimately found no evidence for this link. In fact, it appeared as though the child’s BMI was the most predictive of their leptin sensitivity.

Authors conclude that “leptin concentrations are associated with obesity but not risk for obesity based on in utero exposure to maternal obesity or GDM.” These results suggest that a child’s external environment, such as nutrition and exercise, play more of a role in children developing leptin resistance than maternal obesity or GDM.

The first author of the study is Department of Nutrition Sciences doctoral student Alysha Everett, M.S.. Other authors include Timothy Garvey, M.D., Jose Fernandez, Ph.D., Kirk Habegger, Ph.D., Lorie Harper, M.D., MSCI, Ashley Battarbee, M.D., Samantha Martin, Ph.D., Bethany  Moore, M.S., Amelia Fouts, B.S., Jessica Bahorski, Ph.D., and Paula Chandler-Laney, Ph.D.