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Relationship between GDM, Summer Weather and COVID-19


Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a common disease affecting one in eight pregnant women. An increasing data showing that the incidence of GDM varies with seasonal weather. A research team in the United Kingdom conducted a study to investigate the hypothesis that the incidence of GDM in summer is higher than in other seasons. They also investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the incidence of GDM. The research team screened more than 20,000 women for GDM in a large hospital in London.

The findings showed that the average rate of developing GDM overall was 12.7%, in which the average diagnosis rate was 14.8% in summer (June to August), 12.1% in spring (March to May), 11.9% in autumn (September to November), and 11.2% in winter (December to February). The rate in summer was almost a quarter (23.3%) higher than in the other three seasons.

In addition, the research team unexpectedly found that since the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, the diagnosis rate of GDM has continued to rise. In the 65 months before the outbreak, the average diagnosis rate of GDM was 12.1%. From June to December 2020, when the epidemic began, the average diagnosis rate was 16.2%, having a huge increase of 33.8%.

This study demonstrates a significant seasonal variation in GDM diagnosis rates, which is strongly associated with the mean maximum monthly temperature. For this phenomenon, the research group proposed a possibility that this aspect is related to the metabolism of brown adipose tissue in body. In cold weather, the metabolism of brown adipose tissue is more active, which increases insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes. On the contrary, as the temperature rises during summer, the decrease of activity of brown adipose tissue will reduce insulin sensitivity, so the chance of developing GDM will also increase.

The proportion of people diagnosed with GDM has also increased significantly since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Experts suggest that it may be due to the reduced exercise level of pregnant women during the outbreak period, coupled with increased stress and other factors that increase the risk of hyperglycemia.

Other studies have also pointed out that the history of GDM is an important risk indicator for developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Women who have had GDM before have a risk of developing type 2 diabetes that is ten times higher than healthy people.

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  1. Cauldwell, M., van-de-L'Isle, Y., Watt Coote, I., & Steer, P. J. (2021). Seasonal and SARS-CoV-2 pandemic changes in the incidence of gestational diabetes. BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology, 10.1111/1471-0528.16779. Advance online publication.

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