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Are Diet and Exercise Programs Effective in Preventing Gestational Diabetes?

In a recent study, researchers examined data to determine the role of diet and exercise in preventing gestational diabetes.


An increasing number of women are affected by gestational diabetes, which is elevated blood sugar during pregnancy. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include high sugar and low fibre diets, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Gestational diabetes does not only affect the motherin ways such as increasing blood pressure while pregnant (pre-eclampsia) and increasing the likelihood of giving birth by cesarean section, but it can also result in low blood sugar levels and large birth weights in their babies.

Some common preventative measures for type 2 diabetes are exercise and a proper diet, and of interest is how these interventions affect gestational diabetes when combined to make a healthy lifestyle program. Published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers recently examined how effective combined diet and exercise programs are in preventing gestational diabetes.

In total, researchers reviewed 23 randomized control trials in which women participated in varying diet and exercise programs. There were few restrictions for the women that were included as only those who had preeclampsia, or type 1 or 2 diabetes prior to the trial were excluded. The researchers included data from 19 studies, involving 6,633 women in total.

The results showed that women who participated in a diet and exercise program were able to curtail their gestational diabetes to a greater degree than to those who did not participate in any regime. Several studies showed that diet and exercise programs reduced weight gain during pregnancy and the number of births by cesarean section. There were no differences between those in diet and exercise programs and those who weren’t in regards to the incidence of preeclampsia, the mortality of the newborns around the time of birth, babies that were large for their age at birth, or low blood glucose in the baby following birth.

The results show the potential that diet and exercise programs have in preventing gestational diabetes. Unfortunately, all of the diet and exercise programs were different and were focused on different outcomes, so the specific aspects of the programs that caused a reduction in gestational diabetes remain unknown. Any future studies should implement a uniform program to address these limitations.

Written by Monica Naatey-Ahumah, BSc

Reference: Shepherd, E., Gomersall, J.C., Tieu, J., Han, S., Crowther, C.A., and Middleton, P. (2017) Combined diet and exercise interventions for preventing gestational diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, 11. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010443.pub3.



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