At least 5% of pregnant women nationwide develop high blood sugar levels, even though they didn’t have diabetes before their pregnancy. This condition, called gestational diabetes, significantly raises a woman’s risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Complications of type 2 diabetes include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation.
Researchers, including those in the Epidemiology Branch in the NICHD Division of Intramural Population Health Research, studied more than 4,400 women who developed gestational diabetes to see if a healthy diet could reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the years following their pregnancy. The results showed that women who adhered most closely to healthy diets lowered their risk for type 2 diabetes considerably, when compared to women who did not eat healthy. Women with healthy eating habits had between 40% and 57% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
The results showed that women with gestational diabetes are not always destined to get type 2 diabetes in later years, and that a healthy diet is especially important for this high-risk group (PMID: 22987062).
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