Best Diet for Gestational Diabetes

January 5, 2015

For women with gestational diabetes, a low glycemic index diet was associated with less need for insulin and lower birth weights for the babies.

Clinicians should prescribe a low glycemic index diet to women with gestational diabetes mellitus, according to new data from a meta-analysis.

The analysis found that a low glycemic index diet was associated not only with reducing insulin use but also with lower birth weights for the babies. Published in Diabetes Care, the analysis was based on data from nine randomized controlled trials.

Key Points:

- Physicians should recommend that women with gestational diabetes choose foods with a low glycemic index.

- Adhering to a low glycemic index diet will likely improve the health of women with gestational diabetes.

- Although associated with decreased need for insulin and reduced birth weight in infants, a low glycemic diet did not affect maternal weight gain or c-section rates.

A previous Cochrane review found no significant dietary benefit of a low glycemic index diet. However, this latest analysis included more trials that the Cochrane analysis, the authors said.

Total dietary restriction and low carbohydrate diets did not have similar impact on maternal or newborn health, the researchers found. However, a low glycemic index diet reduced the proportion of patients who needed insulin (relative risk, 0.767 [95% CI 0.597, 0.986]; P = 0.039).

“The less frequent use of insulin means that 13 out of 100 patients with GDM will not need to use insulin if they adopt a low GI diet during pregnancy,” the authors reported.

In addition, the average birth weight of babies born to pregnant women with gestational diabetes who consumed a low GI diet was 161.9 g less than that of babies born to women in the control diet group (95% CI: −246.4, −77.4; P = 0.000).

Using a glycemic index scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which a food raises blood glucose levels after eating, the authors categorized foods with a glycemic index of less than 55 as low glycemic index foods. Pumpernickel bread, oatmeal, muesli, sweet potato, corn, yam, lima beans, peas, lentils, most fruits, and carrots are among foods deemed to have a low glycemic index, according to the American Diabetes Association.

A low glycemic diet, however, did not affect maternal weight gain or c-section rates, the authors noted.