A series of studies by an NICHD researcher suggests that women who maintain a healthy diet and exercise before they become pregnant are less likely to develop gestational diabetes mellitus, a type of diabetes that occurs only in pregnant women.
While the studies do not establish a cause-and-effect relationship, they do show strong associations between certain types of foods and the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. The information could help women of childbearing age and their doctors plan a diet that reduces gestational diabetes risk.
What is gestational diabetes? If a pregnant woman develops diabetes, but she didn’t have it before becoming pregnant, she has gestational diabetes. If not treated, gestational diabetes can cause problems for mothers and babies, some of them serious.
Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., an investigator in the Epidemiology Branch within the NICHD Division of Intramural Population Health Research, studied the diets of a group of women before they became pregnant and then followed them during their pregnancies to track the incidence of gestational diabetes. Here are some of the key findings from her research:
But diet wasn’t the only pre-pregnancy factor related to gestational diabetes: exercise also lowered risk. Women who exercised more before they became pregnant had a lower risk of gestational diabetes; the more intense the exercise, the lower the risk. For example, walking at a brisk pace was associated with a lower risk than walking at a leisurely pace.8
NICHD researchers will continue to investigate gestational diabetes, seeking strategies to prevent the disease, to help improve outcomes for mothers and their babies.
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Originally Posted: August 21, 2014
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