Lowering Risk of Gestational Diabetes with a Healthy Diet and Normal Weight
A study conducted by McMaster University found that South Asian women have an increased risk of gestational diabetes. The study also found that pre-pregnancy weight and a low-quality diet could increase one’s gestational diabetes risk. This study was led by Sonia Anand, who is a professor of medicine and senior scientist. The study involved South Asian women living in Ontario. Researchers found that these two factors increased the risk of developing gestational diabetes by about 37%.
In the study, information about the women’s babies was collected, which included cord blood glucose, insulin levels, birth weight, and skinfold thickness, and it was found that maternal height, a history of type 2 diabetes in the family, and age increased the risk of gestational diabetes.
A low-quality diet includes rice, fruits and vegetables, processed meat, chicken, and red meat. A high-quality diet includes the consumption of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. It was stated that, among South Asian women, up to one-third of gestational diabetes cases can be prevented by achieving optimal pre-pregnancy weight and improving the quality of their diet.
During pregnancy, gestational diabetes can be experienced. High sugar levels in the blood are caused by the use of glucose by cells. Babies born to such women may have an increased birth weight, higher body fat, and lower insulin sensitivity. After delivery, the blood sugar goes back to normal. One’s risk of type 2 diabetes does increase due to gestational diabetes, but it can be controlled by eating healthy foods and exercising.
- Complications: Both the mother and child have risks associated with gestational diabetes. For the baby, the complications include respiratory distress syndrome, excessive birth weight, preterm birth, hypoglycemia, and future type 2 diabetes. The complications for the mother include preeclampsia, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
- Symptoms and causes: Usually, there are no or only mild symptoms, such as being thirstier than usual or an increased frequency of urination. During pregnancy, the body may produce less insulin. Insulin resistance during pregnancy may cause failure in the cells to take in insulin. Some are able to fight off insulin resistance and some are not. This, then, develops into gestational diabetes. Some may develop insulin resistance even before pregnancy due to being overweight or obese.
- Testing: About 24 to 28 weeks into the pregnancy, testing for gestational diabetes is done. Those at risk, however, can get themselves tested at the very first visit.
- Diagnosis: Oral glucose tests and glucose challenge tests show how glucose is used in the body. In some cases, a blood test may be required.
- Healthy eating: Having too much blood glucose or failing to eat can cause the body to produce ketones. So, instead of glucose, fat is used. This burning of fat can be harmful.
- Exercising: Blood glucose levels can be managed through physical activity. This reduces blood pressure levels and cholesterol, improves muscle strength, keeps joints flexible, relieves stress, strengthens the heart and bones, and also lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Lowering the chances: In people who are overweight and/or pregnant, the risk of developing gestational diabetes can be lowered by losing weight before pregnancy and increasing one’s physical activity. This keeps the blood sugar at target levels and also improves the way the body uses insulin. Avoid losing weight when pregnant in order to keep the baby healthy. Conversely, if a lot of weight is gained within a short amount of time, the risk increases.