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Women with gestational diabetes may benefit from dietary intervention

Posted:  Thursday, March 05, 2015

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a condition that arises in pregnancy and is characterised by high blood glucose levels. The glucose levels however stabilise after pregnancy. Research has shown that women with gestational diabetes are 7 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes 20 years hence. A new study has shown that the diet consumed by women with gestational diabetes after delivery may play a major role in increasing the risk of type-2 diabetes in the future.

Published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, the study evaluated the diet and lifestyle choices of a sample of women aged 20 to 44 years, all of whom had given birth to at least 1 child in the past 10 years. Nearly 8% of the women were diagnosed with GDM, whereas the rest of the women were never diagnosed with this condition. None of the women were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The women who participated in the study were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which gathered data from 2007 to 2010.

The women were asked to give a 24 hour dietary recall before a first, in-person survey and again on the phone 3-10 days following the initial interview. The researchers used the 100 point Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to measure the participants’ diet quality and food intake. This index is a 100-point scale based on dietary recommendations from the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It consists of 12 components, including intake of whole fruits and vegetables, and consumption of alcohol and refined grains.

The researchers found that women diagnosed with GDM had on an average 3.4 points lower overall diet quality and a 0.9 point lower score for consumption of green vegetables and beans, foods believed to lower diabetes risk. The researchers observed that diet quality was poor among women with GDM, even after adjusting for variables such as body weight, age, education and income levels, smoking status, physical activity, race and ethnicity.

“This paper gives the message that there’s a need for public health and clinical attention for diet quality among this population,” said lead author Rui S. Xiao. She further added, “Improving diet in this population of women not only could improve their own health but also have the potential to impact their children’s health.”

Although pregnant women with GDM are at an increased risk for developing diabetes later on, this risk is amenable to lifestyle and dietary interventions that can delay the progression of type-2 diabetes.

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