Gestational diabetes is on the rise: here are nutrition 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 worried.

Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted in a new study that there has been a 30% increase in gestational diabetes mellitus (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 increasing maternal age, prepregnancy body mass index, and plurality, that is, the number of live births per pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.).

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Gestational diabetes rates ranged from 4.7% in Mississippi to 12.6% in Alaska in 2020, according to the CDC study.

“About 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes,” the CDC noted.

A pregnant woman visits the doctor.  The rate of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) varied by the mother's race, the CDC said in a new study.

A pregnant woman visits the doctor. The rate of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) varied by the mother’s race, the CDC said in a new study.
(iStock)

It also said the rate of GDM varied by mother’s race, with the highest rate in non-Hispanic Asian women at 14.9% and the lowest in non-Hispanic black women at 6.5% among the six largest groups of race and Hispanic origin studied, according to the recent report.

Insulin activity is weakened

“During pregnancy, the mother’s hormones ‘compete’ with hormones produced by the placenta and cause insulin activity to weaken or become less sensitive,” said Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, a national spokeswoman for the Academy. of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is based in Chicago.

“When this happens, the mother is unable to keep her blood sugar in a normal range and often needs medical intervention to keep it stable throughout the pregnancy.”

“This is called insulin resistance,” he added.

“When this happens, the mother is unable to keep her blood sugar in a normal range and often needs medical intervention to keep it stable throughout the pregnancy.”

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There are key steps that can be taken to try to prevent it early.

Research has shown that some ways to reduce the risk of developing GDM include seeking the guidance of a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to help with diet and lifestyle changes to safely lower blood sugar levels. blood, Anderson-Haynes said.

Maintaining a healthy weight is key

She encourages women, before becoming pregnant, 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 developing GDM.”

Also, “be careful about the food you eat,” he said.

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Try to “limit fried foods, ultra-processed foods like French fries, French fries, refined carbohydrates like white rice, foods that are high in fat, particularly saturated fats, processed meats, and foods with high in added sugar, such as sugary drinks,” Anderson-Haynes added.

It is always wise to eat

It’s always wise to eat “a balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy or dairy alternatives, and high-protein foods.”
(iStock)

“Instead, look to eat a balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy/dairy alternatives, and high-protein foods.”

He said that the nutritional management of GDM is somewhat similar to that of type 1 diabetes mellitus (caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin), as well as type 2 diabetes mellitus (caused by insulin resistance). to insulin due to weight gain and lifestyle factors).

The type of foods he 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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He also recommended eating carbohydrates that slowly raise blood sugar (certain starchy vegetables, fruits, whole-grain breads, rice pasta, etc.), as well as plenty of non-starchy vegetables, such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, peppers, and plus.

“Individualizing nutrition is key,” he said. “There is no exact amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, etc. that everyone should eat. This is also true for people with diabetes or prediabetes.”

A full health team may be needed

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

A nurse takes a blood sample from a pregnant woman.  Insulin is sometimes needed if diet and lifestyle medications don't control blood sugar levels.

A nurse takes a blood sample from a pregnant woman. Insulin is sometimes needed if diet and lifestyle medications don’t control blood sugar levels.
(iStock)

“For many women, GDM can be controlled with dietary and lifestyle interventions.”

Sometimes, however, insulin is needed if these modifications don’t control blood sugar levels, according to the American Diabetes Association’s Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.

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

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Ideally, the team includes an endocrinologist and an RDN who specializes in women’s health and diabetes.

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

Treatment therapies will be individualized.

While some women may need medication to control their high blood sugar levels, others may need only diet and lifestyle management, she noted.

The good news is that type 2 diabetes is preventable: Research shows you can go into remission with intensive, medically supervised treatment, Anderson-Haynes said.

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

Are you following these nutrition ‘pearls’?

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

Mother and baby are doing well, a pregnant mother learns during a doctor's visit.  The new CDC study found that about 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes.

Mother and baby are doing well, a pregnant mother learns during a doctor’s visit. The new 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 a daily intake of 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit or the equivalent, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for America.

And 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) every day, according to the American Heart Association.

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“Dried fruit has more sugar than whole fruit because the sugar is more concentrated as the water is removed,” Anderson-Haynes said.

“Fruit has natural sugar and is good for you as it provides many nutrients like fiber and antioxidants.”

“Watch out for smoothie bowls and fruit drinks.”

However, too much fruit, especially in one serving, can cause spikes in blood sugar levels if not balanced with other nutrients.

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“So be careful with smoothie bowls and fruit drinks,” he advised.

Lastly, he said 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.

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For more information, recommend the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, the American Diabetes Association website, or the “How an RDN Can Help Diabetes” website when seeking guidance on an RDN.

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