Metabolic Syndrome a Risk for Pregnant Women with Mild Glucose Intoler

Women who have gestational glucose intolerance (a condition less severe than gestational diabetes) are at risk for metabolic syndrome as early as three months after birth, according to a new study that will appear in the February 2010 issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).1 This is pretty serious, because metabolic syndrome is a group of factors that predisposes one to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and dementia.

Researchers at the University of Toronto studied 487 women who underwent oral glucose tolerance testing during pregnancy. They were tested and classified as either having normal glucose tolerance, gestational glucose intolerance or gestational diabetes. Three months after giving birth, the researchers checked for metabolic syndrome indicators, including high blood pressure, low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, high levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and high triglycerides.

The researchers found that even mild glucose intolerance during pregnancy predicts an increased likelihood of metabolic syndrome at three months postpartum. And most importantly, these risk factors can be longstanding and contribute to the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer.

“The study findings raise the important possibility that women with gestational glucose intolerance and subsequent postpartum metabolic syndrome represent a patient population at particularly high risk for the future development of metabolic and vascular disease,” said lead author Dr. Ravi Retnakaran, of Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto in a news release.

“Our data also suggests that glucose tolerance screening in pregnancy, as is currently practiced, may provide previously unrecognized insight into a woman’s postpartum cardiovascular risk-factor profile,” said Retnakaran.1

Chromium levels may decrease during pregnancy

Now here’s another important thing to be aware of. Although there is some conflicting evidence, in one study of insulin dependent mothers and their infants researchers found that both the mothers and babies were deficient in chromium, manganese and zinc.2

A much earlier study showed that women with gestational diabetes had a deficiency of chromium when compared with non-diabetic pregnant women.3 Yet, another recent study showed there was no difference in blood serum chromium between pregnant diabetics and non-diabetic pregnant women in regard to their chromium levels.4

What’s so important about chromium?

Low chromium levels can increase blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and increase the risk for a number of conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Pregnant women are most likely to be deficient in chromium. For pregnant women 19 years and older the recommended daily allowance for chromium is 30 mcg daily.

For breast-feeding women 19 years and older: The RDA for chromium is 30 mcg daily.

However, there is some evidence that pregnant women with gestational diabetes can safely use chromium in doses of 4-8 mcg per kilogram (2.2 pounds). Women with gestational diabetes whose diets were supplemented with 4 mcg of chromium per kilogram of body weight daily as chromium picolinate for eight weeks had decreased fasting blood glucose and insulin levels compared with those who took a placebo.5 However, according to one study, plasma chromium concentrations may not accurately reflect tissue stores of chromium. Several trials showed a beneficial effect of chromium supplementation on glucose tolerance, insulin and lipids.

What can you do to prevent metabolic syndrome?

If you are not pregnant there are natural, safe and effective supplements proven to support healthy glucose and insulin levels—major concerns in controlling and reversing metabolic syndrome. However, some of these supplements have not been proven safe during pregnancy and lactation.

However, chromium supplementation is safe, and proven effective for supporting healthy glucose levels, even during pregnancy. Check with your health practitioner if you are pregnant and are concerned about metabolic syndrome.


  1. Retnakaran R, Qi Y, Connelly PW, Sermer M, Zinman B, Hanley AJ. Glucose Intolerance in Pregnancy and Postpartum Risk of Metabolic Syndrome in Young Women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Nov 19. [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Afridi HI, Kazi TG, Kazi N, Baig JA, Jamali MK, Arain MB, Sarfraz RA, Sheikh HU, Kandhro GA, Shah AQ. Status of essential trace metals in biological samples of diabetic mother and their neonates. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2009 Sep;280(3):415-23. Epub 2009 Jan 24.
  3. Aharoni A, Tesler B, Paltieli Y, Tal J, Dori Z, Sharf M. Hair chromium content of women with gestational diabetes compared with nondiabetic pregnant women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Jan;55(1):104-7.
  4. Jovanovic-Peterson L, Peterson CM. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies which may predispose to glucose intolerance of pregnancy. J Am Coll Nutr. 1996 Feb;15(1):14-20.
  5. Gunton JE, Hams G, Hitchman R, McElduff A. Serum chromium does not predict glucose tolerance in late pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Jan;73(1):99-104.