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How to Avoid Gestational Diabetes with Food

Gestational diabetes and food

Women who are pregnant or who plan to get pregnant can reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes if they make some minor dietary changes. According to international research, eating processed and red meats before or during pregnancy can significant increase a woman’s risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

Meat and type 2 diabetes are no strangers
Several previous studies have pointed to an association between eating bacon, sausage, and other types of processed meats as well as red meat and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. One of the most recent studies, for example, followed about 149,000 men and women for four years.

Read about type 2 diabetes risk after pregnancy

The authors found that compared with individuals who did not increase the amount of red and processed meat, those who upped the amount by more than one-half serving daily had a 48 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Among the participants who reduced their intake of meat by more than one-half serving daily, however, there was a 14 percent lower risk of the disease.

Meat and gestational diabetes
Now there is evidence that women should curtail their red and processed meat consumption before pregnancy. For women who are not ready to convert to a plant-based diet to get their protein, the good news is that fowl and fish do not appear to raise the risk of gestational diabetes.

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According to Philippa Middleton of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Adelaide and author of the new review in Evidence Based Nursing, the study results that appeared in Diabetes Care point out that eating more vegetable and non-animal protein can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.

Sources of vegetable and non-animal protein include soybeans and soybean products, legumes, amaranth, quinoa, wheat gluten, seeds, nuts, and a variety of vegetables. In fact, Middleton noted that eating less than one serving of nuts daily can reduce a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes by 40 percent.

Read about sugary cola and gestational diabetes

If you are planning to get pregnant and especially if you are pregnant already, the time to make a dietary change is now. Changes to your diet may be particularly important if you have other risk factors for gestational diabetes, which include the following:

  • Age greater than 25 years
  • Overweight or obese
  • Family or personal history of prediabetes or family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Previous pregnancy in which the birth weight of the baby was more than 9 pounds
  • Previous unexplained stillbirth
  • Race other than white (e.g., black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American)

Gestational diabetes affects nearly 20 percent of pregnant women in the United States and is associated with a number of health problems such as breathing problems in newborns, giving birth to a large child (with the accompanying labor and delivery complications), and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Isn’t it worth making some minor dietary changes to help ensure better health for yourself and your child?

Study references
Bao W et al. Prepregnancy dietary protein intake, major dietary protein sources, and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: a prospective cohort study. Diabetes Care 2013; 36:2001-8
Middleton P. Gestational diabetes: higher animal protein intake during pregnancy is associated with increased risk, and higher vegetable protein intake with decreased risk. Evidence Based Nursing. DOI:10.1136/eb-2013-101550

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