Pre-pregnancy Potato Consumption, Smoking and Obesity May Result in Gestational Diabetes: Study

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PotatoesHigh consumption of potatoes prior to pregnancy increases your risk of gestational diabetes (GDM), reveals new study.

Potatoes are the third most common consumed crop worldwide, besides rice and wheat, and 35% of women of child-bearing age are consuming them daily. U.S. guidelines still consider them a vegetable even though they are quite starchy and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

Gestational diabetes is a common complication of pregnancy resulting in the first signs of elevated blood sugar levels. It can cause in-utero complications as well as an increased risk of diabetes and other health conditions for both the mother and offspring later in life. Many epidemiological studies have previously linked increased potato consumption with elevated fasting blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and Harvard University evaluated the Nurses’ Health Study II in order to determine an association between potato consumption and risk of GDM. The study was a large prospective cohort study that included over 115,000 females. Participants were all of child-bearing age, between 24 and 44-years-old, with at least one reported singleton pregnancy that lasted a minimum of six months. Women also had no history of GDM, type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

Individuals completed questionnaires regarding their disease outcomes, lifestyle behaviours and dietary intakes every two years over a ten year period. Each participant received a diet score based on the servings of various foods consumed on a daily basis. Incorporating daily intake of foods such as vegetables, whole grains and nuts increased their scores, whereas consuming red or processed meat, sodium, or transfats reduced their scores. Tallied scores varied between zero and 110 points.

Findings revealed that higher potato consumption prior to pregnancy resulted in an increased risk of GDM. Over the ten year period, there were 854 pregnancies affected by GDM among the eligible 21,693 pregnancies from 15,632 women. Women who had higher potato consumption were younger and had poorer lifestyle habits, such as smoking, higher weight status, lower physical activity levels and lower-quality diets.

Potato consumption included various methods of preparation such as baked, boiled, mashed and even French fries. Researchers found that replacing at least two servings of potatoes each week with vegetables, legumes, or whole grains, significantly decreased the risk of GDM by at least nine percent.

Furthermore, when evaluating the method of preparing potatoes, it was found that compared to less than one serving per week, individuals consuming at least two servings of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes weekly had a significant increased risk of developing GDM. Compared to no servings or less than one serving per month of fries, individuals consuming fries at least once a week were at an increased risk. Those consuming fries once per month showed no significant risk.

While the findings demonstrate that consuming potatoes as a part of your regular diet may implicate your risk of developing gestational diabetes, researchers highly caution that interventional studies and randomized control trials are warranted for more conclusive results.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Bao, W., et al., “Pre-pregnancy potato consumption and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: prospective cohort study,” British Medical Journal, 2016; doi: 10.1136/bmj.h6898.
NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “Pre-pregnancy potato consumption may be linked to gestational diabetes risk: Researchers suggest substituting vegetables, whole grain for potatoes,” ScienceDaily web site;, last accessed January 13, 2016.