According to the latest research babies born to mothers with untreated gestational diabetes have nearly double the normal risk of becoming obese during childhood.
The good news however is that treatment to regulate blood sugar also regulates the risk.
Researchers at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research (CHR) in Portland and Hawaii used the organization's integrated databases to analyze medical records of 9,439 mother-child pairs.
Researcher Dr. Teresa Hillier an endocrinologist and the lead author of the study, says the study is one of the first to suggest that gestational diabetes is an important risk factor for childhood obesity.
Dr. Hillier says the study shows that children born to mothers who received adequate treatment for gestational diabetes had the same risk for becoming obese as children born to mothers with normal blood sugar.
Dr. Hillier says high blood sugar during pregnancy results in the baby being overfed in the womb and this possibly results in children becoming metabolically imprinted or programmed to become obese.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) about 4 percent of pregnant women in the U.S., or 135,000 women annually, develop gestational diabetes.
For the study the women were screened for gestational diabetes during pregnancy, and their children's weights were recorded between the ages of 5 and 7; it is believed that a child's weight during this period is strongly predictive of his or her weight later in life.
The study revealed that compared with children born to mothers with normal blood sugar during pregnancy, children born to mothers with poorly controlled high blood sugar were 89 percent more likely to be overweight and 82 percent more likely to be obese between the ages of 5 and 7.
However when the gestational diabetes was adequately treated the children were no more likely to be overweight or obese than children born to mothers with no evidence of gestational diabetes.
Although many factors contribute to childhood obesity, experts agree that the link between gestational diabetes could be significant and warrants further research.
The ADA, says the study supports calls for the aggressive treatment of gestational diabetes as it demonstrates that appropriate treatment could potentially decide a child's obesity and diabetes risk later in life.
The ADA funded the research in an effort to determine whether gestational diabetes plays a role in childhood obesity.
It is published in the current issue of the association's journal Diabetes Care.