Gestational diabetes is on the rise: here are 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 worried.

Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed out in a new study that there had been a 30% increase in gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) – the official term for gestational diabetes. – in women who gave birth between 2016 and 2020.

The agency noted that the rate of gestational diabetes increased with maternal age, pre-pregnancy body mass index and plurality, meaning 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 the CDC study.

“About 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes,” the CDC said.

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

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

He also said the rate of DG varied by race of the mother, with the highest rate among non-Hispanic Asians at 14.9% and the lowest among non-Hispanic black women at 6.5% among six largest racial and Hispanic groups studied, according to the recent report.

Insulin activity is weakened

“During pregnancy, hormones from the mother ‘compete’ with hormones produced by the placenta and cause insulin activity to weaken or decrease in sensitivity,” says Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes. , national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is headquartered in Chicago.

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

“It’s called insulin resistance,” she added.

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

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

Research has shown that some ways to reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes include seeking advice from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to help make diet and lifestyle changes to safely lower blood sugar levels, Anderson-Haynes said.

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential

She encourages women – before they become 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 DG”.

Also, “pay attention to the foods you eat,” she said.

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Try to “limit fried foods, ultra-processed foods like potato chips, french fries, refined carbohydrates like white rice, foods high in fat – especially saturated fat – processed meats and foods high in added sugar such as sugary drinks,” Anderson-Haynes added.

It is always wise to eat

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

“Instead, prefer a balanced diet consisting of grains, fruits, vegetables, milk/dairy alternatives and protein foods.”

She said the nutritional management of DG 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 due to weight gain and lifestyle factors).

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

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She also recommended eating carbs that slowly raise blood sugar — certain starchy vegetables, fruits, whole-grain breads, rice noodles, etc. – as well as many non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, peppers and more.

“The individualization of nutrition is key,” she said. “There is no exact number of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, etc. that everyone should eat. This is also true for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.”

A full health team may be needed

But if mothers 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 specialist. certified diabetes care and education.

A nurse takes a blood sample from a pregnant woman.  Sometimes insulin is needed if diet and lifestyle medications are not controlling blood sugar.

A nurse takes a blood sample from a pregnant woman. Sometimes insulin is needed if diet and lifestyle medications are not controlling blood sugar.
(Stock)

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

Sometimes, however, insulin is needed if these changes do not control blood sugar, according to the standards of the American Diabetes Association of Medical Care in Diabetes.

After pregnancy, women with DG should follow up with a diabetes care team at their postpartum visit, which usually takes place 6 to 8 weeks after pregnancy.

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The team ideally includes an endocrinologist and an RDN specializing in women’s health and diabetes.

Both healthcare providers and patients need to act quickly upon a diagnosis of GD to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Treatment therapies will be individualized.

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

The good news is that type 2 diabetes is preventable — with research showing it can go into remission with intensive treatment under medical supervision, Anderson-Haynes said.

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

Do you follow these nutritional “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.”

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

Both mother and baby are doing well, a pregnant mum learns during a visit to the doctor. The new CDC study found that about 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes.
(Stock)

And don’t forget to exercise most days of the week, practice 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 US Dietary Guidelines.

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) each day, according to the American Heart Association. .

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

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

“Take it easy on smoothie bowls and fruit drinks.”

Too much fruit, however, especially at one serving, can lead to blood sugar spikes if it’s not balanced with other nutrients.

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“So go easy on the smoothie bowls and fruit drinks,” she advised.

Finally, she said both healthcare providers and patients need to act quickly when diagnosed with DG to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

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For more information, she recommends the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, the American Diabetes Association website, or the “How an RDN Can Help With Diabetes” website when seeking diabetes advice. an RDN.

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