Fiber May Prevent Diabetes During Pregnancy

by Karen Barrow

An increased fiber intake may be a pregnant woman.s best bet for preventing gestational diabetes, a new study finds.

Gestational diabetes will affect about 4 percent of all pregnant women this year, potentially causing major consequences for both the mother and her child.

Like type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes occurs when the body cannot efficiently process glucose. But, unlike the more common form of diabetes, gestational diabetes only occurs during the latter months of pregnancy.

The high levels of blood glucose that result from gestational diabetes find their way to the developing baby, causing macrosomia, a condition that causes the baby to grow larger than normal in the womb, increasing the potential for a difficult delivery or even the need for a cesarean-section.

The specific cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, so tips to prevent this disease are hard to come by. But a new study may give moms a new strategy against it.

Dr. Cuilin Zhang and a team of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at surveys of over 13,000 female nurses who had at least one baby over an eight year period. Among these nurses, 785 had gestational diabetes.

Looking at the diet of these nurses, however, Zhang found that those nurses who had the highest intake of fiber before they became pregnant were the least likely to have gestational diabetes. In fact, for every 10 grams more of fiber the nurses ate, their risk of developing gestational diabetes dropped 26 percent.

"The findings suggest that pre-pregnancy diet might be associated with a woman's gestational diabetes risk," Zhang writes in Diabetes Care. "In particular, diet with low fiber...was associated with an increased risk."

The high fiber food most often consumed by the nurses included cereals and fruit, but other fiber-rich foods, like vegetables and whole grain breads, are other good options.

It is not known how a high fiber diet helps prevent gestational diabetes, so while these preliminary results seems promising, Zhang adds that more work needs to be done before the link between fiber and gestational diabetes is firmly established.

Karen Barrow is a copyeditor/writer. She has written for the New York Sun, Science World, Super Science and The Jewish Week. She obtained a master's degree in biomedical journalism from New York University and a bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell University.

Copyright © Karen Barrow. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.