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Sugary Cola Increases Gestational Diabetes Risk


If you are thinking about having a baby, put down the sugary cola: experts have shown for the first time that drinking more than five servings of sugar-sweetened cola per week before pregnancy seems to significantly increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

According to the National Institute of Health, 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a form of glucose intolerance diagnosed during pregnancy. It occurs more frequently among African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and Native Americans, and is also more common among obese women and women who have a family history of diabetes.

The new study was conducted by experts from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Public Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. The researchers evaluated a group of 13,475 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II to arrive at their conclusions.

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During ten years of follow-up, the investigators identified 860 cases of gestational diabetes. They then made adjustments for known risk factors for the disease, including age, family history of diabetes, physical activity, smoking history, alcohol use, prepregnancy body mass index, Western dietary habits, and intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. They concluded that sugary cola consumption, but no other sugar-sweetened or diet beverage, was associated with the risk of gestational diabetes. More specifically, women who consumed five or more servings per week of sugary colas had a 22 percent greater risk of developing the disease than women who consumed less than one serving per month.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease notes that after pregnancy, 5 to 10 percent of women with gestational diabetes are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and that women who have had gestational diabetes have a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing diabetes within the next 5 to 10 years. Gestational diabetes also places women at greater risk for complications and illness during pregnancy and delivery. Children of women who have gestational diabetes are at increased risk for obesity, early onset diabetes, and glucose intolerance.

Although the researchers have not identified the underlying mechanism that connects sugary cola with gestational diabetes, evidence suggests that high sugar consumption may lead to impaired pancreatic cell function or contribute to a high glycemic load. Consumption of high glycemic foods can result in insulin resistance and impaired function of the beta cells, which make insulin in the pancreas. Results of this study may serve as a warning to women to reconsider their intake of sugary cola before getting pregnant to possibly reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Chen L et al. Diabetes Care 2009 Dec; 32(12): 2235-41
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease