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Health & Pregnancy

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Study Measures Gestational Diabetes Risk

Researchers Say Risk Increases With Each Pregnancy

Risk Reduction Strategies continued...

That said, the researchers did not have information on lifestyle factors such as weight that may have contributed to women's increased risk for gestational diabetes.

The obesity epidemic may play a role in the high recurrence rate of gestational diabetes seen in this study, as being overweight or obese is a known risk factor for gestational diabetes. "Early identification of at-risk population and timely initiation of postpartum lifestyle intervention may help to prevent gestational diabetes and related adverse pregnancy outcomes," he says.

Risk Is Higher for Some Ethnic Groups

The new study also examined the role that race/ethnicity play in the recurrence of gestational diabetes.For reasons that are not clear, the risk of recurrence of gestational diabetes was higher among Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander women, compared with their white counterparts, the study showed.

White rice, a dietary staple among the Asian population, has a high glycemic index. The glycemic index ranks how quickly certain carbs affect blood sugar or glucose levels. Low-glycemic-index carbs produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels, while high-glycemic-index carbs like white rice can cause spikes.

"Emerging evidence suggests that foods with a high glycemic index may cause elevated levels of serum glucose and insulin, thereby increasing the risk of gestational diabetes," he says. "However, whether the consumption of foods with a high glycemic index predicts the recurrence of gestational diabetes in subsequent pregnancy has not been substantiated."

The new findings "mirror what we are seeing and are consistent with previous studies," says Manju Monga, MD, the Berel Held Professor and the division director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston.

But that doesn't mean women with a history of gestational diabetes are powerless in the face of their increased risk, she says. "Fifty percent of people with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years," she says. "Some women in the study may have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, not recurrent gestational diabetes."

Women who had gestational diabetes should request screening for type 2 diabetes during their six-week postpartum visit, she says. "If women want to modify their risk for gestational and type 2 diabetes, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy non-obese weight before your first pregnancy and between pregnancies."

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