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Eating lots of potatoes may pose gestational diabetes risk

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Women who eat lots of potatoes could be a greater risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy, suggests new research.

The US-study found woman who ate more potatoes prior to getting pregnant were more likely to go on to develop gestational diabetes – a common complication during pregnancy that poses long-terms health risks for both mothers and babies.

“The key message from the research should be about varying the diet”

Janet Fyle

Researchers looked at data on more than 15,600 women who took part in a long-term health study and became pregnant.

The study included questions about diet and – after taking into account other factors – the team found eating more potatoes was linked to an increased risk of gestational diabetes.

Swapping two servings of potatoes a week with other vegetable or whole grain foods was linked to a nine to 12% reduction in risk, they found.

Previous research has suggested potatoes can have a detrimental effect on blood sugar levels due to their high starch content.

However, the researchers said the nature of this latest study meant they could not draw any definitive conclusions about cause and effect.

“Higher levels of potato consumption before pregnancy are associated with greater risk of [gestational diabetes] and substitution of potatoes with other vegetables, legumes or whole grain foods might lower the risk,” they said in the British Medical Journal.

But the Royal College of Midwives stressed that midwives and nurses should not advise women to avoid potatoes in the light of the research.

“We cannot draw definitive conclusions from this research nor apply the findings to everyone,” said RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle.

“The key message from the research should be about varying the diet. Potatoes are a healthy food group,” she said. “We need to tailor our messages to pregnant women so that they are able to have a well-balanced diet and not be put off eating them.”


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Like much of the research reported on in the popular media, this has many flaws as I see it. I wonder how the questionnaires were worded and whether those whose main carbohydrate was rice had similar results. I am always rather wary of any research that announces findings that suggest a certain drink or food is to blame for a myriad of complaints, when there are so many variables that should be considered. As for 'swapping two portions of potatoes with other vegetables leading to a 12% reduction in risk', I wonder how many of those included in the study changed other things in their lives as well when confronted with taking part in a research study. Newspapers have to sell papers and they scan the findings of every piece of research, no matter how small or poorly conducted, to announce to the readers some momentous findings about what new thing will hasten their death and how it can be avoided. It sells papers but does not really have much to do with keeping healthy. Women have so much to worry them when they are pregnant let's not make it worse than it is.

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