Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard University have found that women who consume a diet high in animal fat and cholesterol before pregnancy have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes develops when pregnancy hormones block insulin from doing its job and blood glucose levels increase resulting in a glucose intolerance (diabetes) during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes if uncontrolled can lead to complications at birth and later on in life if not properly controlled. Untreated gestational diabetes increases the risk of newborn death and stillbirth. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be larger at birth which leads to trauma during the birth and increases the necessity of a c-section delivery. Gestational diabetes also increases the chance of developing diabetes later on in life.
Researchers studying the link between diets and gestational diabetes found that the increased risks due to a diet high in animal fat and cholesterol were not linked to other common risk factors. For example, although exercise typically helps reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, exercise did not appear to reduce the increased risk from animal fats and cholesterol.
Conclusions from the study stated that “changing the source of 5 percent of dietary calories from animal fat to plant-derived sources could decrease a woman’s risk for gestational diabetes by 7 percent.” Senior research author Cuilin Zhang, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. stated, “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.”