New findings from the Nurses Health Study has shown that following a healthy eating pattern prior to conception can reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes (GDM, or diabetes in pregnancy). The study of more than 21000 births in over 15000 women looked at the relationship between the women’s usual dietary patterns and their risk of developing GDM. Their usual eating habits were ‘scored’ according to how closely they adhered to three different healthy eating patterns:
- a Mediterranean-style diet, which is typically rich in olive oil, vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, legumes, and fish but relatively low in meat and dairy products
- a DASH diet (short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) which is an eating plan that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fat-free or low fat dairy products, fish and poultry, but restricts intake of red meat, sweets, added sugars, and sugar-sweetened drinks
- an alternative Healthy Eating Index (aHEI) eating pattern, which recommends more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains; choosing unsaturated rather than saturated or trans fats, and eating more fish, legumes, soy foods, nuts and poultry over red meat.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study found that the women whose usual diets most resembled these three healthy eating patterns were much less likely to develop GDM. Compared to the women whose diets least resembled each of the eating patterns, those with the highest dietary scores were 24%, 34% and 46% less likely to develop GDM with the Mediterranean, DASH and aHEI eating patterns, respectively.