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Animal fat and cholesterol may increase gestational diabetes risk: Study

By Nathan Gray , 27-Jan-2012

A pre-pregnancy diet that is high in animal fat and cholesterol could almost double the risk of pregnancy related diabetes, says new research.

The study – published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – reports that women who consume a diet high in animal fat and cholesterol before pregnancy may be at higher risk for gestational diabetes than women whose diets were lower in animal fat and cholesterol.

The researchers, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Harvard University, found that women in the highest group for animal fat intake had almost double the risk for gestational diabetes compared to women with the lowest intake. They also observed that women in the highest group for cholesterol consumption were 45% more likely to develop the condition than those in the lowest group

Women whose diets were high in total fat or other kinds of fats – but not in animal fat or cholesterol – did not have an increased risk, explained the authors.

"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," said senior author Cuilin Zhang of the NIH.

Research details

The researcher team used data from more than 13,000 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study II to investigate possibly links between pre-pregnancy diet and incidence of gestational diabetes.

"This is the largest study to date of the effects of a pre-pregnancy diet on gestational diabetes," explained Dr. Katherine Bowers of Harvard University, the first author of the paper.

Bowers and her colleagues calculated the amount of animal fat in participants' diets as a percentage of total calories and divided participants into five groups, or quintiles, based on those percentages.

Then the researchers compared the risk for developing gestational diabetes for each group. They found that women in the highest quintile of animal fat intake had almost double the risk for gestational diabetes compared to women in the lowest quintile, whilst those in the highest quintile for cholesterol consumption were 45% more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those in the lowest.

No significant associations were found between gestational diabetes incidence and dietary polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, or trans fat intakes, said the research team.

"Additional research may lead to increased understanding of how a mother's diet before and during pregnancy influences her metabolism during pregnancy, which may have important implications for the baby's health at birth and later in life,” said Bowers.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume 95, Number 2, Pages 446-453, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.111.026294
A prospective study of prepregnancy dietary fat intake and risk of gestational diabetes”
Authors: K. Bowers, D.K. Tobias, E. Yeung, F.B. Hu, C. Zhang

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