Mamas on Bedrest: Your Diet and Your Risk for Gestational Diabetes

February 11th, 2013

ks15442wMamas, eating a diet that is high in red meat increases your risk for gestational diabetes while eating a diet that is rich in plant protein- such as nuts-lowers your risk of gestational diabetes.

We are all well aware that eating too much red meat puts you at increased for cardiovascular disease, strokes, increased long term weight gain and type II diabetes. But now researchers have note that high red meat consumption is also detrimental to pregnant women, putting them at increased risk for gestational diabetes.  But there is some good news in all of this. Researchers at the  Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland report that pregnant women who eat a primarily plant based protein diet have a significantly lower risk for developing gestational diabetes. This study data was published in the February 1, 2013 edition of Diabetes Care.

The researchers analyzed pre-pregnancy food questionnaires for 15,294 women, which resulted in a total of 21,457 singleton pregnancies, including 870 first time gestational diabetics. After adjusting for such confounding factors such as Body Mass Index (BMI), age, number of pregnancies and dietary history (including cholesterol history) they found that red meat intake was associated with a significantly higher risk for development of gestational diabetes when compared with diets high in plant based protein consumption. The authors also looked at alternative animal proteins such as poultry and fish consumption. Diets rich in these proteins also resulted in lower risk of developing gestational diabetes, but even their risks were higher when compared with plant based protein intake.

So how big a deal is red meat versus plant protein intake on the development of Gestational Diabetes? Here is what the researchers actually found:

The substitution of 5% energy (food intake) from vegetable protein for animal protein was associated with a 51% lower risk of GDM . The substitution of red meat with poultry, fish, nuts, or legumes showed a significantly lower risk of GDM.

In plain English, that means that women who ate diets high in red meat had a 29% higher risk of developing Gestational Diabetes. On the other hand, if they decreased their red meat consumption by 5% and substituted nuts for the red meat, they lowered their risk for developing Gestational Diabetes by 51%. This is HUGE!! This risk reduction is even greater than what is seen when red meat is substituted with poultry or fish (which both significantly reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, just not as dramatically as replacing red meat with nuts.)

The researchers also found:

Substituting 1 serving per day of total red meat with a more healthful protein source was associated with a 29% lower risk for GDM for poultry, 33% for fish, 51% for nuts, and 33% for legumes (beans).

These numbers are staggering. Yet they also clearly indicate that small dietary changes can have significant impact on our health. If you have a history of Gestational Diabetes  (in a previous pregnancy) or have been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, you may want to discuss dietary changes with your doctor  and consider exchanging your intake of red meat for other animal proteins (poultry or fish) or for vegetable sources of protein if you consume large amounts of red meat.  Even if you don’t consume large amounts of red meat, if you have developed Gestational Diabetes and do eat red meat, you may want to consult with your doctor or a nutritionist about making changes to your diet to improve your sugar metabolism and to stabilize your blood sugars.



Medscape Medical News

Wei Bao, MD, PHD,  Katherine Bowers, PHD,  Deirdre K. Tobias, SCD, Frank B. Hu, MD, PHD,  and Cuilin Zhang, MD, PHD                           Pre-regnancy Dietary Protein Intake, Major Dietary Protein Sources, and the Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A prospective cohort study. Diabetes Care, February 1, 2013


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