To identify a postpartum lipidomic signature associated with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and investigate the role of the identified lipids in the progression to type 2 diabetes (T2D).


This prospective cohort study enrolled 1,409 women at 24–72 h after delivery of a singleton baby and followed them prospectively at the Boston Medical Center. The lipidome was profiled by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Diagnoses of GDM and incident T2D were extracted from medical records and verified using plasma glucose levels.


Mean (SD) age of study women at baseline was 28.5 (6.6) years. A total of 219 (16.4%) women developed incident diabetes over a median follow-up of 11.8 (interquartile range 8.2–14.8) years. We identified 33 postpartum lipid species associated with GDM, including 16 inverse associations (primarily cholesterol esters and phosphatidylcholine plasmalogens), and 17 positive associations (primarily diacyglycerols and triacyglycerols). Of these, four were associated with risk of incident T2D and mediated ∼12% of the progression from GDM to T2D. The identified lipid species modestly improved the predictive performance for incident T2D above classical risk factors when the entire follow-up period was considered.


GDM was associated with a wide range of lipid metabolic alterations at early postpartum, among which some lipid species were also associated with incident T2D and mediated the progression from GDM to T2D. The improvements attained by including lipid species in the prediction of T2D provides new insights regarding the early detection and prevention of progression to T2D.

This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.22289449.

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