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Red Meat Consumption and an Increased Risk of Gestational Diabetes

Increased vegetable protein consumption may lessen risks of gestational diabetes…. 

In this recent cohort study, researchers looked at 21,457 pregnancies, 870 of which developed into a gestational diabetes pregnancy. By looking at records of what these women ate pre-pregnancy, it was possible to make correlations between which diets tended to lead to gestational diabetes. The main portion of the diet assessed was whether the women consumed protein derived from meat or from vegetables.

When comparing the relative risks of gestational diabetes and consumption of more plant protein before pregnancy, researchers found a decreased risk in those women who consumed more plant proteins (adjusted RR=0.69, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.97; p=0.034). Consumption of just ½ a cup of nuts per day also lead to a 40% reduced risk of gestational diabetes. Women who consumed more red meat prior to pregnancy had an increased risk of having a gestational diabetes pregnancy (adjusted RR=1.49, 95% CI 1.03 to 2.17; p=0.013). When comparing the types of animal protein the women were eating, the increased risk seemed to come from mainly red meats and more processed meats, with fish and poultry not having a significant risk.

While this study was not able to assess what the women were consuming during pregnancy, the significantly increased risk of eating red meat prior to pregnancy would suggest that eating such foods in moderation before and during pregnancy would be wise. If mothers-to-be were more mindful of their protein choices and perhaps switched out processed meat choices with healthful plant proteins, they may be able to decrease their risk of developing gestational diabetes and possibly type 2 diabetes.

Practice Pearls:
  • Increased red meat consumption prior to pregnancy may increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  • Consumption of plant proteins pre-pregnancy may lead to a reduced risk of gestational diabetes.
  • By consuming just ½ cup of nuts daily, women may decrease their risk of developing gestational diabetes by 40%.

Evidence Based Nursing, November 2013