Red Meat May Increase Gestational Diabetes Risk

risk of diabetesA recent study conducted at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute shows a link between consumption of red meat and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in pregnant women. While there have been numerous studies conducted demonstrating an increased risk of type 2 diabetes with a diet heavy in red meat, there is now evidence linking red meat to gestational diabetes as well. Commentary for the study has been published in this month’s journal Evidence-Based Nursing written by Philippa Middleton, Executive Director of the Australian Research Center for Health of Women and Babies (ARCH) at the Robinson Institute.


“Based on current evidence, pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant should consider eating more vegetable protein, and nuts, and replacing some red meat with fish and poultry,” says Middleton. Consumption of fish and poultry will not increase your risk; however, consumption of non-meat protein such as vegetables and nuts has actually been shown to decrease risk of GDM. “For example, just over half a serving of nuts per day can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes by 40%.”


This study goes on to support existing ones with similar findings,  such as the one published on Diabetes Care back in February by Wei Bao, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and colleagues of the National Institutes of Health. “They analyzed pre-pregnancy food questionnaires for 15,294 women with a total of 21,457 singleton pregnancies, including 870 in which a first-time diagnosis of GDM was made,” according to Medscape Medical News. “After adjustment for age, parity, body mass index (BMI), dietary factors – including fat and cholesterol intake – and other covariates, greater consumption of animal protein was associated with significantly increased GDM risk, while higher vegetable protein intake was associated with significantly reduced risk.”


There are approximately 135,000 cases of gestational diabetes in the Unites States alone each year. You are considered to have GDM when your blood sugar levels rise during pregnancy and you are not able to produce the amount of insulin your body needs. Even if you have never had diabetes prior to your pregnancy you are at risk of contracting the disease. Gestational diabetes can be harmful to both you and your unborn baby, so it is important to start a treatment plan and obtain diabetic supplies. Your physician can help set you up with a treatment plan and a diabetic supply company can help you get the diabetic accessories you may need, such as a blood glucose meter, testing strips, and a diabetic log book to keep track of blood sugar levels on a daily basis.


Middleton says that the connections between red meat and how it can cause GDM and type 2 diabetes are still unknown to scientists. “More research is needed to better understand why this is happening and how to adapt women’s diets and other lifestyle behaviors to prevent both gestational and type 2 diabetes.” Meat consumption is associated with other disadvantages, such as long-term weight gain, coronary artery disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and an elevated risk of mortality.


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