Background: Exposure to several metallic elements has been suggested as a risk factor for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), but inconsistent findings have been reported. This study aimed to examine the association between the maternal whole blood concentration of metallic elements (Hg, Pb, Cd, Mn, and Se) and GDM using the dataset of the Japan Environment and Children's Study (JECS), a nationwide birth cohort study, which was designed to examine the adverse effects of pre/post-natal exposure to hazardous environment. Methods: The data of 78,964 pregnant women who were participants of JECS were used. Blood samples were collected from the pregnant women at second/third trimester of gestation. We employed logistic regression analysis, quantile g-computation (QGC) and a distributed lag nonlinear model (DLNM) to examine the association between the blood concentration of metallic elements and the risk of GDM. Results: The prevalence of GDM was 2.1%. In the logistic regression analyses, maternal blood Hg was associated with an increased risk of GDM. In QGC analysis, although metallic elements mixtures were not related to an increased risk of GDM, Hg (52.6%) may be the main contributor. According to the results of DLNM, for maternal exposure to Hg, 4.99 ng/g was identified as its susceptible minimum window for elevated risk of GDM. Conclusions: Our findings highlighted an association between Hg exposure and an increased risk of GDM. Studies of the underlying mechanisms and potential contributing factors, including fish intake, of this association are warranted.
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