Gestational diabetes is on the rise: Here are some nutritional tips to prevent and treat it

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Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can occur during pregnancy in women who do not already have diabetes.

It’s on the rise — and experts are concerned.

Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated in a new study that there was a 30% increase in gestational diabetes (GDM) — the official term for gestational diabetes — among women who gave birth between 2016. and 2020.

The agency noted that the rate of gestational diabetes has increased with the increase in maternal age, BMI before pregnancy and multiple births, that is, the number of live births per pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.).

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Rates of gestational diabetes ranged from 4.7% in Mississippi to 12.6% in Alaska in 2020, according to a CDC study.

The CDC noted that “about 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes.”

A pregnant woman visits a doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new study that the incidence of gestational diabetes varies with the sex of the mother.
(iStock)

It also reported that the rate of GDM varies by mother’s gender, with the highest rate in non-Hispanic Asians at 14.9% and the lowest in non-Hispanic black women at 6.5% among the six largest races and Hispanic groups studied, according to the study. to the last report.

Weak insulin activity

“During pregnancy, maternal hormones ‘compete’ with hormones secreted by the placenta and impair insulin activity or make it less sensitive,” said Sue Elaine Anderson Hines, a national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The headquarters is located in Chicago.

“When this happens, the mother cannot keep her blood sugar in the normal range and often needs medical intervention to keep it stable during pregnancy.”

“This is called insulin resistance,” she added.

“When this happens, the mother cannot keep her blood sugar in the normal range and often needs medical intervention to keep it stable during pregnancy.”

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There are basic steps you can take to try to prevent it early.

Research has shown that some ways to reduce the risk of developing GDM include seeking guidance from a dietitian who specializes in nutrition (RDN) to help with diet and lifestyle changes to safely reduce blood sugar levels, Anderson-Heinz said.

Maintaining a healthy weight is key

She encourages women – before pregnancy – to maintain a healthy weight “by eating nutritious foods and engaging in regular physical activity most days of the week”, which can “reduce the risk of skin cancer”.

She also said, “Pay attention to the foods you eat.”

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Try “limiting fried foods, ultra-processed foods such as potato chips and French fries, refined carbohydrates such as white rice, high-fat foods – especially saturated fats – processed meats, and foods high in sugar such as sugar-sweetened beverages,” Anderson Hines added.

It is always wise to eat "A balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy alternatives, and protein foods."

It is always wise to eat a “balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, dairy alternatives, and protein foods.”
(iStock)

“Instead, look at eating a balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy/dairy alternatives, and protein foods.”

She said the nutritional management of GDM is somewhat similar to that of type 1 diabetes (caused by an autoimmune reaction where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin) — and type 2 diabetes (caused by insulin resistance due to weight gain and lifestyle factors). ).

The types of foods she recommends are high in fiber, healthy dietary fats, low-fat dairy (or dairy alternatives), and lean protein, with an emphasis on a low glycemic index.

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She also recommended eating carbohydrates that raise blood sugar slowly – some starchy vegetables, fruits, whole-grain bread, rice pasta, etc. – as well as plenty of non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, carrots, peppers, etc.

“Individualizing nutrition is key,” she said. “There is no set number of carbohydrates, fats, protein, etc. that everyone should eat. This also applies to diabetics or prediabetics.”

A full health team may be required

But if moms develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, Anderson Hines says an OB-GYN can refer them to a multidisciplinary team that includes an endocrinologist, maternal and fetal health specialist, and RDN who is also a certified diabetes care and education specialist.

A nurse takes a blood sample from a pregnant woman.  Sometimes insulin is necessary if diet and lifestyle medications do not control your blood sugar.

A nurse takes a blood sample from a pregnant woman. Sometimes insulin is necessary if diet and lifestyle medications do not control your blood sugar.
(iStock)

“For many women, GDM can be managed with diet and lifestyle interventions.”

However, sometimes insulin is needed if these alterations don’t control blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association’s Standards for Diabetes Medical Care.

After pregnancy, women with GDM should follow up with their diabetes health care team at their postpartum visit, which is usually 6-8 weeks after conception.

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The team ideally consists of an endocrinologist and an RDN who specializes in women’s health and diabetes.

Both health care providers and patients need to act quickly when there is a diagnosis of GDM to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Treatment treatments will be individualized.

She noted that while some women may need medication to control their high blood sugar, others may just need diet and lifestyle management.

Anderson Hines said the good news is that type 2 diabetes is preventable — research shows that it can be cured with intensive, medically supervised treatment.

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She recommends some wise nutritional “pearls” to follow to stay healthy.

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“Simple tips include: focus on plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains), limit fried and highly processed foods, foods with added sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Mother and baby are doing well, the expectant mother learns while visiting the doctor.  The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that about 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes.

Mother and baby are doing well, the expectant mother learns while visiting the doctor. The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that about 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes.
(iStock)

And don’t forget to exercise most days of the week, have good sleep hygiene and manage stress appropriately.

Adults should aim for 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day or equivalent, according to the 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines.

Women should limit their intake of added sugar to 6 teaspoons (25 grams of sugar), while men should limit their intake to 9 teaspoons (36 grams of sugar) per day, according to the American Heart Association.

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“Dried fruit has a higher sugar content than whole fruit because the sugar is more concentrated since the water has been removed,” Anderson Hines said.

“Fruit has natural sugar and is good for you because it provides a lot of nutrients like fiber and antioxidants.”

“Keep cool with bowls of juice and fruit drinks.”

Despite this, eating a lot of fruit – especially in one meal – can lead to a spike in blood sugar if it’s not balanced with other nutrients.

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“So you don’t have to worry about bowls of juice and fruit drinks,” she advised.

Finally, she said both healthcare providers and patients need to act quickly when there is a diagnosis of GDM to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

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For more information, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, the American Diabetes Association website or the How RDN Can Help with Diabetes website recommends when looking for guidelines from the RDN.

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