Up to 15 percent of pregnant women in India are developing diabetes, raising the risk of their children developing the disease, said experts on Sunday, who blamed factors including malnutrition.
Experts at a diabetes summit in Chennai in southern India said genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, as well as women simply being undernourished and unable to cope with pregnancy, were the main reasons for the high rate of diabetes in pregnancy.
"If a young girl is healthy, she produces eggs that are appropriately nourished," Chittaranjan Yajnik, director of the diabetes unit at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Pune, India, told Reuters in an interview.
"If there is a problem there, you can be sure that there is a problem for the next generation," he said.
Rates of diabetes in pregnancy, or gestational diabetes, in Western countries are typically around 5 percent.
Experts at the summit urged earlier and more intensive screening of pregnant women in India, which has the world's highest rate of diabetes.
The placenta produces more hormones during pregnancy, which create resistance to insulin in the mother. Usually, the mother's pancreas would respond by producing extra insulin, but sometimes their bodies cannot keep up, leading to gestational diabetes.
Such women are more likely to develop diabetes later on in life.