• Consuming potatoes before pregnancy might increase your risk of gestational diabetes, according to a new study from the US. (Flickr)Source: Flickr
Researchers in America have discovered a link between potato consumption and gestational diabetes. They now advise women looking to get pregnant to reduce their potato consumption and supplement their diet with carbohydrates from other sources.
Yasmin Noone

13 Jan 2016 - 3:08 PM  UPDATED 13 Jan 2016 - 3:56 PM

Women who eat a lot of potatoes before they conceive a child might put themselves at a greater risk of developing diabetes while pregnant, according to a US-based study published in the British Medical Journal this week.

The joint study, conducted by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Harvard University, marks one of the first ever associating potato consumption with the risk of gestational diabetes.

The research suggests that potatoes, which have a high glycaemic index compared with other vegetables, can trigger a sharp rise in blood sugar levels.

This is because potatoes contain significant levels of starch, which is absorbed rapidly after ingestion.

Regular consumption of a significant quantity of potatoes can therefore put a woman at an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.

“Understanding of the association between consumption and risk of gestational diabetes, a common complication of pregnancy that has adverse impacts on the health of women and their children, has important clinical and public health implications,” the study reads.

“… Our findings, together with data from other studies, further highlight the potential role of pre-pregnancy diet in the development of gestational diabetes.”

The researchers examined 15,632 women who became pregnant over a 10-year period (1991-2001), who had no previous gestational diabetes or chronic disease before pregnancy.

Consumption of potatoes and other foods was assessed every four years.

Over the decade studied, the team identified 21,693 pregnancies, of which 854 were affected by gestational diabetes.

Substituting two servings of potatoes a week with suitable alternatives could lower a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes by 9–12 per cent.

The research also suggests a link between eating more potatoes and higher weight gain during pregnancy. However, the researchers say that more research is needed on both claims.

The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) explains that gestational diabetes occurs in 5–8 per cent of all Australian women during pregnancy, usually because of changing hormone levels in the body, which alters insulin requirements.

Gestational diabetes puts both baby and mum at risk of health implications during pregnancy.

Although gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel reports that a woman is more likely to develop gestational diabetes in future pregnancies after she has had it once.

“Women who have gestational diabetes also have a high chance (almost one in two) of developing type 2 diabetes within 10 to 20 years,” Better Health Channel advises.

“Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, so it is important to take steps to reduce your risk.”

The new US-based research also suggests that women looking to have a baby should substitute potatoes with other vegetables, legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils), or whole grain foods to possibly lower their risk of gestational diabetes mellitus.

Substituting two servings of potatoes a week with suitable alternatives could lower a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes by 9–12 per cent.

The Better Health Channel advises women at risk to maintain a healthy eating plan, stay fit, pursue a health weight for their height and have a follow-up blood test (OGTT) every year to check their blood glucose levels.


Image by Jan Smith (Flickr).