A recent study suggests that elevated consumption of potatoes prior to pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of gestational diabetes, a condition where women without a previous history of diabetes exhibit high blood sugar during pregnancy.
The key findings are in the paper “Pre-pregnancy potato consumption and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: prospective cohort study,” published in The BMJ journal.
Gestational diabetes is a frequent complication during pregnancy, and is characterized by dysfunction of the insulin receptors resulting from pregnancy-related factors. The condition is associated with health risks, including future diabetes development and heart disease for both mothers and babies. This makes the identification of risk factors crucial in the prevention of this type of diabetes.
Some studies suggested an association between a high-glycemic diet and elevated blood sugar during pregnancy. Potatoes are a highly glycemic food frequently consumed around the world, and often included in dietary guidelines where potato consumption is encouraged. However, the association between elevated consumption of potatoes and risk of incidents of gestational diabetes remained unknown.
Now, researchers analyzed data from a large prospective cohort study and examined plausible links between potato consumption before pregnancy and the risk of gestational diabetes. A total of 15,632 women were analyzed from the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991-2001) with no prior gestational diabetes or chronic disease before pregnancy. Dietary assessment of the participating women was performed every four years, and all cases of gestational diabetes were recorded.
In total, 854 gestational diabetes cases among 21,693 singleton pregnancies were recorded over a 10-year follow-up. After data adjustment by eliminating other risk factors like age, physical activity, family history of diabetes and overall diet quality, the researchers found that women who had diets rich in potatoes before they became pregnant showed elevated rates of gestational diabetes.
In contrast, replacement of two servings of potatoes per week with vegetables, legumes, or whole grains reduced the rate of gestational diabetes by 9 to 12 percent.
Although the study has several limitations, it points to the possibility that elevated consumption of potatoes before pregnancy may increase the risk of gestational diabetes.
Compared to other vegetables, potatoes have a high-glycemic index that may cause a quick increase in blood sugar levels. To lower the risk of gestational diabetes, the authors suggested that potatoes should be eaten in moderation and substituted with other vegetables, legumes, or whole grain foods.