Women who eat more potatoes before pregnancy may have higher rates of gestational diabetes—the form that occurs during pregnancy—compared to women who consume fewer potatoes, according to a new study.
The researchers of National Institutes of Health (NIH) proposed that substituting potatoes with other vegetables, legumes or whole grains may help lower gestational diabetes risk.
Gestational diabetes, a common pregnancy complication, 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 said.
However, until the current study, the effect of potatoes, a common, high-glycemic food, on the development of gestational diabetes was unknown.
Researchers from NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and Harvard University evaluated more than 15,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II.
They analysed records of women between 1991 to 2001 who had no history of illness before pregnancy and had not had gestational diabetes before. Every four years, the women filled out a questionnaire on the kinds of foods they had eaten during the previous year.
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. They estimated reductions in gestational diabetes risk by substituting the following foods for two servings of potatoes per week.
Substituting two servings of potatoes a week with other vegetables or whole grain foods yielded an approximately 10 per cent reduction in risk, they said.
The researchers, however, said that because their study was not designed to prove cause and effect, their results do not prove conclusively that potato consumption directly leads to gestational diabetes.