Diet High in Animal Fat Linked to Gestational Diabetes

By: Michele Wolfson

Vegetarianism means eating lower on the food chain, ingesting fewer resources and less water and is an ethical, environmentally-friendly choice. We've heard that it's a lifestyle that can be good for your heart, your brain, and keeping a trim figure amongst other benefits. But did you know that there is an interesting connection between high consumption of animal fat and gestational diabetes among women?

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes seen during pregnancy. It increases the risk for certain pregnancy complications and health problems in the newborn. A pregnancy diet that is high in animal fat increases the risk that moms will develop this kind of diabetes, research at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard University states. According to Science Daily, "Women whose diets were high in total fat or other kinds of fats -- but not in animal fat or cholesterol -- did not have an increased risk."

Researchers analyzed data from more than 13,000 women in the U.S. Nurses' Health Study II. The women were ages 22 to 45 when they enrolled in the study and provided information every few years about their health and lifestyle habits, such as the kinds of foods they ate. Those who consumed high amounts of animal fats were 45 percent more likely to develop gestational diabetes than were women who consumed other fats.

"Our findings indicate that women who reduce the proportion of animal fat and cholesterol in their diets before pregnancy may lower their risk for gestational diabetes during pregnancy," senior author Dr. Cuilin Zhang, of the epidemiology branch at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in an NIH news release.

One may argue that regular exercise is known to reduce the risk of Gestational diabetes and they have been healthy individuals all of their lives. However, among pregnant women who exercise, the risk of gestational diabetes was higher among those women who consumed higher amounts of animal fat and cholesterol than those who consumed lower levels of those types of fat. The study was published online Jan. 4 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

If you are pregnant and alarmed by these new findings, do not be discouraged: The U.S. Department of Agriculture website, ChooseMyPlate.gov, contains information on healthy eating for children and adults, as well as health and nutrition information for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

"This is the largest study to date of the effects of a pre-pregnancy diet on gestational diabetes," Dr. Bowers said. "Additional research may lead to increased understanding of how a mother's diet before and during pregnancy influences her metabolism during pregnancy, which may have important implications for the baby's health at birth and later in life."

Diabetes is an ongoing health issue in this country that cannot be ignored. We need to take this issue seriously and be a good example for the upcoming generation, many who are already combating this disease at such a young age.

Photo: molly_darling 

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