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A healthy lifestyle can reduce diabetes risk later in life for women with gestational diabetes

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A healthy lifestyle can reduce diabetes risk later in life for women with gestational diabetes

According to a study supported by the National Institutes of Health, a healthy diet after birth decreases the risk of diabetes for women who had diabetes during pregnancy. During pregnancy, gestational diabetes can occur in women who never had problems with hyperglycemia before pregnancy. This problem occurs more frequently in the third trimester of pregnancy. High blood sugar during pregnancy does not give symptoms and is usually diagnosed during routine pregnancy tests. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes have increased birth weight ( macrosomia). In addition, they may have other problems such as hypoglycemia or jaundice. Moreover, the mother may have cesarean indication.

Diabetes Risk

Gestational diabetes occurs due to insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone released by the pancreas that plays a role in blood sugar control. In other words, insulin mediates the entry of glucose into cells where it is used as an energy source. Lack of insulin or an insufficient amount of this hormone causes the glucose to remain in the blood and so  hyperglycemia appear. Another factor that can cause hyperglycemia is insulin resistance. In pregnancy, it seems that this is the main mechanism by which diabetes occurs. There are several factors that cause insulin resistance: placental hormones, prolactin, estradiol, etc.. Because it can cross the placenta, maternal blood glucose stimulates insulin secretion in fetus. Insulin, in turn, stimulates fetal growth, so these children have increased birth weight.

Besides the effects on children, women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The researchers found that a healthy diet greatly decreases the risk of diabetes in these women who had problems with blood sugar during pregnancy. Consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, that is part of a  healthy lifestyle, help maintain the blood sugar levels. Senior author Cuilin Zhang, MD, Ph.D., of the Epidemiology Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), said that the study indicates that women with gestational diabetes have not necessarily increased  risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. He added that there is a certain control over blood glucose levels.

The study included 4413 women who developed gestational diabetes between 1991 and 2001. Of those who participated in the study, 491 developed diabetes. Researchers found that women who followed one of three diets (Mediterranean-style diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH-diet-and the Healthy Eating Index) did not develop diabetes or had a very low risk of diabetes . This small risk means that blood sugar level is also influenced by genes and physical activity.

A healthy lifestyle can reduce diabetes risk later in life for women with gestational diabetes