Stop Diabetes, Eat Healthy After Pregnancy

Type 2 diabetes risk after gestational diabetes can be reduced by eating a healthy diet

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Eating a healthy diet is a major part of any pregnancy. If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, diet becomes even more important. Now, it seems the importance of a healthy diet doesn't go away once the baby is born.

Results from a recent study showed that women who developed diabetes during pregnancy can lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by keeping a healthy diet in the years after pregnancy.

This study's results indicate its never to late to start eating healthy.

"Eat healthy before, during and after pregnancy."

In the United States, about 5 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes - a condition in which a woman's blood sugar levels rise during pregnancy even though she did not have diabetes before becoming pregnant. Women with gestational diabetes are up to seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Cuilin Zhang, MD, PhD, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and colleagues found that women who followed certain diets after having gestational diabetes lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by about half, compared to women who did not follow those diets.

Before this study, researchers were unclear about how much a healthy diet could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in women who had gestational diabetes.

The study showed that the best diets for lowering diabetes risk in these women were rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes. The diets also included seafood, poultry and nuts while cutting back on red meat and processed meats.

"Our findings indicate that women with gestational diabetes aren't necessarily preordained to develop type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Zhang.

"It appears they may have some degree of control. Sticking to a healthy diet may greatly reduce their chances for developing diabetes later in life," she said.

A healthy diet can reduce the risk of diabetes in anyone.

In a previous study, Dr. Zhang and her fellow researchers showed that women who ate a healthy diet (low-cholesterol, low in animal fat, high-fiber) and exercised regularly before becoming pregnant had a lower risk of gestational diabetes.

The current study showed yet again that a healthy diet is crucial to preventing diabetes.

The study included 4,413 women with gestational diabetes. Of these, 491 went on to develop type 2 diabetes.

The researchers ranked women by how closely they followed three common diets: a Mediterranean-style diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Healthy Eating Index.

Compared to those who did not closely follow these diets, women who had gestational diabetes reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by:

  • 40 percent if they followed the Mediterranean diet
  • 46 percent if they followed the DASH diet
  • 57 percent if they followed the Healthy Eating Index

"Our findings suggest that reaching out to women who have had gestational diabetes on the importance of a healthy diet might significantly reduce the overall rate of type 2 diabetes," said study co-author Deirdre K. Tobias, ScD, of the Harvard School of Public Health.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Cancer Institute.

The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 10, 2012
Last Updated:
October 12, 2012