A new study in Hypertension reports that the risk of hypertension development following gestational diabetes is decreased when following 3 popular diets


Pregnancy is usually exemplified by swollen feet, food cravings, fluctuating hormone levels and nausea; but there is one more complication affecting 9.2% of the pregnant population, gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs specifically during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects the ability of a woman’s body to break down sugar in the blood. During pregnancy, the body is not able to produce enough insulin (which normally controls sugar levels) to handle the effects of a growing baby and the changing hormone levels; as a result, the blood glucose levels will rise.

Undiagnosed or untreated gestational diabetes can result in high blood glucose levels. High glucose levels put the unborn child at risk of being over 4 kg, which can result in a difficult pregnancy.  As well, gestational diabetes increases the risk of the child becoming overweight and developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Gestational diabetes is also associated with an elevated risk for hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure). It has been previously reported that women with a history of gestational diabetes have a 26% higher incidence of hypertension than those who did not have gestational diabetes; this higher risk of hypertension was seen even 16 years after having gestational diabetes.

A new study published in Hypertension has looked at which diet changes can help reduce the risk of hypertension in post-gestational diabetes women. Three diets were tested for their efficacy to reduce hypertension: the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet, the alternative Mediterranean diet (aMED), and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). The DASH diet, originally developed for blood pressure reduction, is focused on a low consumption of sodium, animal proteins, and sweets, encourages high intakes of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, and moderate in low-fat dairy products. The aMED diet is rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains, and high in fats, olive oils, moderate in alcohol and dairy, and low in meats. The AHEI diet is based on a comprehensive literature review of foods and nutrients that are consistently associated with a lower risk of chronic disease; it emphasizes high consumption of nuts, legume, whole grains, fish, and polyunsaturated fats, and a lower intake of sugar-sweetened drinks.

3818 US women participated in this study, all of which had gestational diabetes during their pregnancies. Participants were followed for 20 years, and researchers observed their levels of physical activity, occurrence of hypertension, eating habits, and lifestyle choices. Each participant documented their eating habits and was graded for their level of adherence to one of the three diets. Researchers determined that women who strongly adhered to any of the three diets were able to successfully lower their risk of hypertension. All three diets (DASH, aMED, and AHEI) were strongly associated with a lowered risk for developing hypertension. Women who consumed a higher-quality diet after gestational diabetes had up to a 35% lower risk of subsequent hypertension.

With a properly-maintained diet, women with, or who have had, gestational diabetes can significantly reduce their chances of developing hypertension. Researchers also noted that the decreased risk of hypertension was the result of a moderate influence of changes in body mass index.




Written By: Alexandra Lostun, BSc

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