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Dietary increase of potatoes risks gestational diabetes for pregnant women and babies.

Potatoes and pregnancy

Potatoes are widely consumed . Globally over 1 in 3 women in their reproductive years eat potatoes daily.  Their use is included in the UK in the “starchy food” group and recommended for consumption in the UK.

Researchers from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Harvard University  carried out a study of the potato’s impact on pregnancy by followeing over 21,000 singleton pregnancies over a 10-year period. Data was taken from the US Nurses’ Health Study II (1991-2001). Participants had no previous gestational diabetes mellitus or chronic diseases. Diets were assessed with questionnaires every 4 years and  854 pregnancies, were affected by gestational diabetes.

After including control factors such as age, family history, diet quality in general, BMI and family history of diabetes, higher potato consumption before pregnancy was linked to  increased risks of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a major concern as it is associated with negative perinatal outcomes and raises long-term cardiometabolic risks for both mother and child.

The researchers acknowledge as the study was observational a cause and effect cannot be drawn, but the results may not surprise as unlike other vegetables, potatoes contain a high level of starch.  Its starch is quickly absorbed giving potatoes a high glycemic index. So meals high in potatoes can induce a glucose spike in the blood. The spike can cause oxidative stress to pancreatic beta cells and potentially exhaust these over time.

Previously potatoes were found to increase blood concentrations of fasting plasma glucose, insulin resistance and so the risk of type 2 diabetes. French fries, for instance, arry addiional risks of “degradation products from the frying oil and dietary advanced glycation end products that are generated during the frying process.”

These products were previously shown to increase risks of insulin resistance and diabetes. The present study’s authors conclude their report with some simple advice to minimize the potential risks.


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