If you’re pregnant or planning for it, you may just want to trade in your French fries and potato cutlets for something more nutritious. It turns out that women who consume potatoes before their pregnancy run a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. According to senior author Dr. Cuilin Zhang, a senior investigator with the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:

“The more potatoes women consumed, the greater risk they had for gestational diabetes… Potatoes are regarded as a kind of vegetable, but not all vegetables are healthy”

Potatoes, a Risk Factor?

Zhang and fellow researchers found that the risk for developing gestational diabetes, increased to 27% among women that ate between two and four cups of potatoes, a week before pregnancy. The risk rose to 50%, if 5 or more cups of potatoes were consumed in a week. Other risk factors towards diabetes and pre-pregnancy obesity were taken into consideration, before analysis. Gestational diabetes can affect newborns: they face difficulty in breathing, reduced levels of blood sugar, and lower chances of survival.

Carbohydrate Content and diabetes

Potatoes contain a variety of nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C and fibre. Potatoes are a rich-source of carbohydrate, a medium-sized potato contains 37 grams of sugar. Carbohydrates are absorbed into the blood stream, resulting in a sugar spike. Increased levels of blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, the main cause of type 2 diabetes. A research study by Bao et al. at the Harvard Medical School, demonstrates that by replacing two servings of potatoes, per week, with whole grains or vegetables, reduces the chances of gestational diabetes by 9 to 12%.

Dr. Raul Artal, an obstetrician and gynaecologist with the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, states that the right approach to keep healthy while pregnant is to have a balanced diet. While potatoes should be reduced from the diet, women of reproductive age can enjoy small portions from time to time.

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