The spread of gestational diabetes: 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 have not yet had diabetes.

It’s growing and experts are concerned.

Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a new study showed a 30 percent increase 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 increases with maternal age, prepregnancy body mass index and multiple pregnancy, which means the number of live births per pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.).

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

“Approximately 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes,” according to the CDC.

A pregnant woman visits a doctor.  The incidence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) depends on the race of the mother, according to a new CDC study.

A pregnant woman visits a doctor. The incidence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) depends on the race of the mother, according to a new CDC study.
(iStock)

It also states that GDM rates vary by race of the mother, with the highest rate in non-Hispanic Asians at 14.9% and the lowest in non-Hispanic Black women (6.5%) among the six largest Hispanic races and groups studied. . to a recent report.

insulin activity is reduced

“During pregnancy, the mother’s hormones ‘compete’ with hormones produced by the placenta and cause a decrease in insulin activity or sensitivity,” said Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, National Representative for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is headquartered in Chicago.

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

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

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

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There are key steps you can take to try and prevent this from happening ahead of time.

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

Maintaining a healthy weight is key

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 GDM.”

Also, “be mindful of the foods you eat,” she said.

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Try to “limit fried foods, ultra-processed foods like potato chips, french fries, refined carbs like white rice, high-fat foods, especially saturated fats, processed meats, and foods high in added sugars like sweetened drinks – Anderson-Haynes. added.

Always eat smart "a balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products or dairy alternatives, and protein products."

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

“Instead, look for a balanced diet made up of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein.”

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

She recommends foods high in fiber, healthy dietary fats, lean dairy (or alternatives), and lean proteins, with an emphasis on low glycemic index.

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She also recommended eating carbohydrates that slowly raise blood sugar levels — some starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grain breads, rice paste, etc. — as well as plenty of non-starchy vegetables like green leafy vegetables, carrots, peppers, and more. other.

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

May require a full medical team

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, however, insulin is needed if these modifications do not control blood sugar, in accordance with the American Diabetes Association standards of care for diabetes.

After pregnancy, women with GDM should be seen by their healthcare provider during the postpartum visit, which usually occurs 6 to 8 weeks after pregnancy.

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

Health care providers and patients must act quickly when GDM is diagnosed to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Therapy will be individualized.

She noted that while some women may need medication to control their high sugar levels, others may only need diet and lifestyle changes.

The good news, Anderson-Haynes says, is that type 2 diabetes is preventable—studies show it can go into remission with intensive, medically supervised treatment.

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She recommends following some “pearls” of wisdom in the field of nutrition in order to stay healthy.

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

Mother and baby are doing well, the pregnant mom finds out during a visit to the doctor.  A new CDC study has found that about 50% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes.

Mother and baby are doing well, the pregnant mom finds out during a visit to the doctor. A new CDC study has 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 a good time sleep hygiene and manage stress properly.

Adults should aim for 1.5-2 cups of fruit or equivalent daily, according to the 2020-2025 America’s Nutrition Guidelines.

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

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

“Fruits contain natural sugar and are good for you as they contain many nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants.”

“Be careful with smoothies and fruit drinks.”

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

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“So eat less smoothies and fruit drinks,” she advised.

Finally, she said that healthcare professionals and patients must act quickly when GDM is diagnosed 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 RDN Can Help Diabetes website when looking for RDN recommendations.