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Pregnant women made modest dietary changes after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health found. Women with gestational diabetes are generally advised to reduce their carbohydrate intake, and the women in the study reduced their daily intake of juice and added sugars. They also increased their intake of cheese and artificially sweetened drinks. However, certain groups of women did not reduce their carbohydrate intake, including women who were obese, had more than one child, were Hispanic, had a college degree or less, or were between 35 and 41 years of age.
The study was led by Stefanie N. Hinkle, Ph.D., of the Department of Epidemiology at the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the NIH, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The study appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Patients with gestational diabetes (or pregnancy-related diabetes) are at greater risk of maternal high blood pressure, larger babies, caesarean sections, low blood sugar in newborns, and developing chronic diabetes later in life.
“The observed improvements in diet were not the same for all groups of women,” said Dr. Hinkle. “This study shows the importance of developing customized programs to ensure that all women with gestational diabetes can successfully change their diet and optimize their health.”
The study team analyzed an existing dataset from the NICHD fetal growth studies, which included diet and exercise surveys of a diverse group of women in 12 hospital centers across the country. The diet analysis included 1,371 women, 72 of whom had gestational diabetes. The study team also looked at exercise routines and this analysis included 1,875 women, of whom 84 had gestational diabetes.
In the study, women with gestational diabetes limited their daily carbohydrate intake by 48 grams, mainly by reducing their juice intake by about 0.4 cups per day and their additional sugar intake by about 3.2 teaspoons per day. Their cheese consumption increased by 0.3 cups per day and artificially sweetened drinks by 0.2 cups per day.
In addition, the team found that women with gestational diabetes neither reduced their consumption of whole grains or whole fruits, nor did they compensate for their diet change by increasing saturated fats. The authors write that these observations are comforting, as complex carbohydrates from whole grains or fruits can be beneficial for gestational diabetes, while saturated fats can worsen health outcomes by promoting overgrowth in the fetus.
The researchers also found that women with gestational diabetes maintained the same amount of time in moderate or vigorous exercise in their third trimester. However, women who did not have gestational diabetes reduced their moderate exercise activity by about 20 minutes per week and their vigorous exercise by about 9 minutes per week during their third trimester.
According to the study’s authors, the results show that health care providers still have many options to help women with gestational diabetes make greater gains and make changes in diet and exercise. The authors called for more research to identify innovative approaches that are more effective in changing diet and exercise behavior.
Research has shown that exercising more in the first trimester can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes
Hinkle, SN, et al. Dietary changes and physical activity in pregnant women after diagnosis of gestational diabetes: results of a prospective longitudinal cohort study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics DOI: 10.1016 / j.jand.2021.04.014 (2021) Provided by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development of the NIH / Eunice Kennedy Shriver
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