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

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.

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.