The purpose of the present study was to determine changes in plasma lipids and markers of oxidative stress longitudinally in pregnancy complicated by diabetes compared with non-diabetic pregnancy. This was carried out by following a group of normal pregnant women (n=17) and groups of pregnant women with Type I diabetes (n=19), Type II diabetes (n=12) and gestational diabetes mellitus (n=12) throughout pregnancy, with sampling carried out at the end of each trimester. Serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerols (triglycerides) were determined using standard colorimetric techniques and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) subfraction profile by disc PAGE. Total antioxidant capacity (TAC) was determined by enhanced chemiluminescence and lipid hydroperoxides by the ferrous oxidation of Xylenol Orange method. Total cholesterol and triacylglycerols increased significantly throughout pregnancy in all groups, but there were no significant differences between normal and diabetic women with respect to either. The LDL score was significantly higher (P<0.001) in diabetic women compared with normal women at each point throughout pregnancy, although there were no significant differences between the diabetic groups. There was evidence of greater oxidative stress in diabetic compared with normal women throughout. Corrected TAC was significantly lower (P<0.001) in all diabetic women throughout pregnancy. In addition, lipid hydroperoxides were higher in all diabetic compared with normal women, particularly so in those with Type II diabetes (P<0.05). These changes may have important implications for diabetic women during pregnancy, as an elevated risk of pre-eclampsia is thought to reflect an oxidative stress-related mechanism. In addition, these changes may have important implications for the development of atherosclerosis and the long-term cardiovascular health of women with diabetes.

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