Women who eat a lot of red and processed meats even before they become pregnant may have a significant risk of developing gestational diabetes, warns a new commentary published in the BMJs Evidence-Based Nursing.
The commentary, written by Philippa Middleton at the University of Adelaide, suggests that pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant may benefit from substituting some animal protein with vegetable protein (including nuts) "and perhaps replacing some red meat with fish and poultry."
Middleton's commentary comes on the back of increasing evidence to suggest that red meat is linked with a higher rate of gestational diabetes in pregnant women, which poses risks to the health of both the mother and the baby.
"There have been several reports linking red meat with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and now the work of a number of research teams worldwide is showing this link for diabetes during pregnancy," she commented.
"While this news is alarming, there are also some positives," she said - noting that new research has shown that eating fish and poultry does not increase the risk of gestational diabetes, and consuming more vegetable and non-meat protein is associated with a reduction in risk.
"For example, just over half a serving of nuts per day can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes by 40%."
Middleton noted that although the link between red meat and diabetes is strengthening, researchers still don't understand the underlying mechanisms that cause it.
"More research is needed to better understand why this is happening and how to adapt women's diets and other lifestyle behaviours to prevent both gestational and type 2 diabetes," she said. "Based on current evidence, pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant should consider eating more vegetable protein, and nuts, and replacing some red meat with fish and poultry."
Source: Evidence Based Nursing
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1136/eb-2013-101550
"Gestational diabetes: higher animal protein intake during pregnancy is associated with increased risk, and higher vegetable protein intake with decreased risk"
Author: Philippa Middleton