Diet Impacts Type 2 Diabetes Risk in Gestational Diabetes


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Sep 17 2012 - 7:01pm
Diet impacts type 2 diabetes risk in gestational diabetes

Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a significant risk of getting type 2 diabetes either soon after giving birth or within the next ten or more years. Results of a new study appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveal that women can greatly reduce that risk by eating a healthy diet, and some diet options are better than others.

Your diet can protect against type 2 diabetes

As many as 18 percent of pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a condition in which diabetes develops for the first time during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can lead to various complications, including having a large baby (with associated risks during labor and delivery), and giving birth to an infant with very low blood glucose levels and/or breathing problems.

Despite the high risk of type 2 diabetes among women with a history of gestational diabetes, few studies have examined modifiable risk factors, which could help these women prevent the disease. Therefore a research team examined data from 4,413 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study II and who had a history of gestational diabetes.

All the women were followed from 1991 through 2005 using a food frequency questionnaire, which was completed every four years. Three dietary patterns were evaluated using a point system: the alternate Mediterranean diet (aMED), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and alternate Healthy Eating Index (aHEI).


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These three dietary approaches have previously been shown to be associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the general population. All three diets have similar characteristics regarding intake of fruits and vegetables, low consumption of red and processed meats, carbohydrate quality, and low intake of saturated fats.

When the authors reviewed the follow-up data and the dietary information, they found the following:

  • A total of 491 women developed type 2 diabetes during the follow-up period
  • Mean time to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes was 13.8 years
  • All three dietary approaches were associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • The aHEI diet pattern was associated with a 57% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, DASH with a 46% lower risk, and aMED with a 40% lower risk

Which dietary factors are best?
Although all three dietary plans have similar characteristics, several factors within each individual diet were more likely to be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. For example:


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