Eating potatoes often may raise the risk of diabetes during pregnancy

    13 January 2016

    Women who eat more potatoes before they are pregnant may have higher rates of diabetes during pregnancy, according to a study by the Maryland-based National Institutes of Health.

    The researchers say that substituting potatoes with other vegetables, legumes or whole grains may help lower the risk of gestational diabetes.

    The study, which has been published in the BMJ, is the first to link potatoes, a common, high-glycemic food, to the development of gestational diabetes.

    Gestational diabetes is a common pregnancy complication that causes high blood sugar levels in the mother. The disorder can lead to future health problems for mother and child. Previous studies have linked foods with a high glycemic index, a measure of the ability to raise blood sugar levels, to a higher risk of gestational or type-2 diabetes.

    The researchers evaluated more than 15,000 women who filled out a questionnaire on the kinds of foods they had eaten during the previous year every four years. For potatoes, the women were asked if they had consumed baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes, fries or potato chips, with possible responses ranging from ‘never’ to ‘six or more times a day’.

    The researchers found that women who ate more potatoes had a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

    The study’s authors estimate that the risk of gestational diabetes could be reduced by as much as 12 per cent if potatoes were substituted with whole grains, 10 per cent for legumes and nine per cent for other vegetables.

    Cuilin Zhang, lead author, told the BBC: ‘Gestational diabetes can mean women develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy and hypertension.

    ‘This can adversely affect the foetus, and in the long term the mother may be at high risk of type-2 diabetes.’

    Dr Emily Burns, of Diabetes UK, said: ‘This study does not prove that eating potatoes before pregnancy will increase a woman’s risk developing gestational diabetes, but it does highlight a potential association between the two.

    ‘However, as the researchers acknowledge, these results need to be investigated in a controlled trial setting before we can know more.’

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