For women with gestational diabetes, study shows reduced risk of type 2 diabetes solely through dietary modification

October 10, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—By sticking to a healthy diet in the years after pregnancy, women who develop diabetes during pregnancy can greatly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a study supported by the National Institutes of Health has found.

Previously, it was not known how much the risk for in these could be lowered through adhering to .

In about 5 percent of U.S. pregnancies, women who do not have diabetes before becoming pregnant develop high in pregnancy. This condition, called gestational diabetes, raises a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life up to sevenfold, compared to pregnant women who don't have gestational diabetes. Little is known about the role healthy may have in preventing progression from gestational diabetes to type 2 diabetes later in life.

The study found the greatest reductions in type 2 diabetes risk were for women who followed diets rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and included poultry, seafood, and nuts, with limiting intake of red and . Those who followed this type of diet in the years after having gestational diabetes consistently reduced their risk by about half that of women who did not.

"Our findings indicate that women with gestational diabetes aren't necessarily preordained to develop type 2 diabetes," said senior author Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., of the Epidemiology Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute where much of the analysis was conducted. "It appears they may have some degree of control. Sticking to a healthy diet may greatly reduce their chances for developing diabetes later in life."

In addition to Dr. Zhang's role in the study, funding support was provided by the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (grants DK058845 and P30 DK046200-18) and the (grant CA58305).

Dr. Zhang led the multidisciplinary team that conducted the study, including the first author Deirdre K. Tobias, Sc.D., and colleagues Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., Jorge Chavarro, M.D., Sc.D., Bernard Rosner, Ph.D., and Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., D.P.H., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston. Drs. Hu, Chavarro, Rosner and Mozaffarian are also affiliated with the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The study appears online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The body uses insulin, produced in the pancreas, to move the sugar glucose from the blood and into the cells. In people with type 2 diabetes, cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, and, if untreated, blood sugar reaches high levels. Complications of diabetes include heart disease, stroke, , blindness and amputation.

Research has shown that, among the general population, healthy eating can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Dr. Zhang and her colleagues have shown previously that, before they conceive, women who follow a diet low in cholesterol and animal fat, low in sugar sweetened beverages, but high in fiber, and who are physically active have a reduced risk of gestational diabetes.

This study included 4,413 women who developed gestational diabetes between 1991 and 2001. The women were taking part in a long-term study of nurses called the Nurses' Health Study II. As part of the ongoing study, the nurses filled out questionnaires every other year on lifestyle and health. They completed a questionnaire every four years about their intake of several common food items during the previous year.

The researchers ranked the women's responses in terms of how closely they adhered to three widely studied diets: a Mediterranean-style diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—or DASH—diet and the Healthy Eating Index, a measure of how closely an individual follows the healthy eating guidelines developed by the United States Department of Agriculture. All three diets promote eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and .

Of the women in the study, 491 later developed type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that women who adhered most closely to these diets (scores in the top 25 percent) lowered their risk for type 2 diabetes considerably when compared to the least compliant group (lowest 25 percent):

— Mediterranean Diet (40 percent lower risk)
— Dash Diet(46 percent lower risk)
— Healthy Eating Index pattern (57 percent lower risk)

On average, these women developed type 2 diabetes about 14 years after they had experienced gestational diabetes.

"Our findings suggest that reaching out to women who have had on the importance of a healthy diet might significantly reduce the overall rate of type 2 diabetes," Dr. Tobias said.

Some women in the study who adhered to a healthy diet still developed type 2 diabetes. Dr. Zhang said her team is evaluating other factors, such as genes and physical activity levels and the interaction between genes and diet and lifestyle factors, that might affect a woman's as well, in a large ongoing study on U.S. and Danish women ( & Women's Health Study, http://www.dwhstudy.org) supported by the NICHD.

Explore further: High animal fat diet increases gestational diabetes risk

Related Stories

High animal fat diet increases gestational diabetes risk

January 25, 2012
Women who consumed a diet high in animal fat and cholesterol before pregnancy were at higher risk for gestational diabetes than women whose diets were lower in animal fat and cholesterol, according to researchers at the National ...

Women's risk of heart disease after gestational diabetes differs by race

June 6, 2011
New research finds that gestational diabetes, or pregnancy-related diabetes, may not raise the risk of heart disease independent of other cardiovascular risk factors except in certain high-risk populations, such as Hispanics. ...

Overweight moms with moderately high blood sugar raise health risk

April 11, 2012
Pregnant women who are overweight with moderately elevated blood sugar never set off any alarms for their physicians. The big concern was for women who were obese or who had gestational diabetes because those conditions are ...

Can lifestyle counselling prevent adverse outcomes in pregnant women at high risk?

May 17, 2011
In this week's PLoS Medicine, Riitta Luoto and colleagues from the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, and University of Tampere, Finland, evaluate whether lifestyle interventions can reduce the risk of high birthweight ...

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.