Convergence in insulin resistance between very severely obese and lean women at the end of pregnancy

Shareen Forbes, Sarah M Barr, Rebecca M Reynolds, Scott Semple, Calum Gray, Ruth Andrew, Fiona C Denison, Brian R Walker, Jane E Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


AIMS: Disrupted intermediary metabolism may contribute to the adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with very severe obesity. Our aim was to study metabolism in such pregnancies.

METHODS: We recruited a longitudinal cohort of very severely obese (n = 190) and lean (n = 118) glucose-tolerant women for anthropometric and metabolic measurements at early, mid and late gestation and postpartum. In case-control studies of very severely obese and lean women we measured glucose and glycerol turnover during low- and high-dose hyperinsulinaemic-euglycaemic clamps (HEC) at early and late pregnancy and in non-pregnant women (each n = 6-9) and body fat distribution by MRI in late pregnancy (n = 10/group).

RESULTS: Although greater glucose, insulin, NEFA and insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), and greater weight and % fat mass (FM) was observed in very severely obese vs lean participants, the degree of worsening was attenuated in the very severely obese individuals with advancing gestation, with no difference in triacylglycerol (TG) concentrations between very severely obese and lean women at term. Enhanced glycerol production was observed in early pregnancy only in very severely obese individuals, with similar intrahepatic FM in very severely obese vs lean women by late gestation. Offspring from obese mothers were heavier (p = 0.04).

CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Pregnancies complicated by obesity demonstrate attenuation in weight gain and insulin resistance compared with pregnancies in lean women. Increased glycerol production is confined to obese women in early pregnancy and obese and lean individuals have similar intrahepatic FM by term. When targeting maternal metabolism to treat adverse pregnancy outcomes, therapeutic intervention may be most effective applied early in pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2615-26
Number of pages12
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose/metabolism
  • Body Composition/physiology
  • Female
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin/blood
  • Insulin Resistance/physiology
  • Obesity/blood
  • Pregnancy


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