Pamela A. Popper, Ph.D., N.D.

Wellness Forum Health

 According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of gestational diabetes is about 9.2%. Women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of complications related to both pregnancy and delivery, and are over seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes 5 to 10 years after the birth of their child.

A new study looked at the diets of women who have a history of gestational diabetes and found that those who eat a low-carbohydrate diet high in animal foods have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers followed 4502 women with a history of GDM from 1991 to 2011, tracking the amount of animal and vegetable intake of the participants. During the follow-up period, 722 cases of type 2 diabetes developed in the study population.

When the highest and lowest quintiles for intake were compared, women who ate the most protein and fat, particularly from animal foods, had a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who ate the most plant food.  The researchers also reported that women eating a diet high in protein and fat from plant sources did not have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. It was specifically animal protein and fat that increased risk.

The researchers wrote that “Low-carbohydrate diets may improve short-term glycemic control in patients with gestational diabetes…” but concluded at the end of the study that this short-term strategy was counter-productive for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

This study illustrates several important points.  First, many strategies that appear to improve health in the short-term do not translate to better long-term health outcomes. Often, short term success is followed by long-term failure and/or health decline. And second, the cause of type 2 diabetes is not carbohydrates and starchy foods, but rather the Standard American Diet with its high concentration of animal protein and fat.

DeSisto C, Kim S, Sharma A. “Prevalence Estimates of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in the United States, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2007-2010.” Preventing Chronic Disease 2014;11:130415

Bao W, Li S, Chavarro J et al. “Low-Carbohydrate-Diet Scores and Long-term Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Among Women With a History of Gestational Diabetes: A Prospective Cohort Study.”  Diabetes Care November 17. 2015.  Published online ahead of print doi: 10.2337/dc15-1642