I’ve had gestational diabetes — twice. I have aunts, uncles and grandparents with type 2 diabetes, not to mention my mom who’s dealt with various complications from the disease. I’ve also been confirmed prediabetic, as of the last four years.
My point is that it’s hard to imagine that I won’t be diagnosed with full-blown type 2 diabetes at some point in the future. And it honestly scares me. This is why I do whatever I can to prevent the onset of the disease and why I’m always trying to understand what’s best to eat. As I see it, diet can be the best preventive medicine for any chronic disease, and a new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, has found that women who have had gestational diabetes can significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life by following a healthy diet.
About 5 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which raises their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to sevenfold, compared to women with normal blood glucose levels during pregnancy.
I was devastated when I received the first diagnosis of gestational diabetes, because I wasn’t expecting it and I knew what it forewarned. The second time around, I was disappointed but not surprised. It’s in my genes, apparently, though that’s not to say that I can’t or won’t do anything about it.
Prior to this study, according to the press release, “it was not known how much the risk for type 2 diabetes in these women could be lowered through adhering to healthy diet.” The study is the first to show that women can reduce that risk through changes to diet.
“Our findings indicate that women with gestational diabetes aren’t necessarily preordained to develop type 2 diabetes,” said study senior author Dr. Cuilin Zhang of the Epidemiology Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. I wouldn’t have thought otherwise, and regardless of what the experts say, I would never simply resign myself to the notion that diabetes is in any way “preordained” for me.
“It appears,” continued Dr. Zhang, that women with gestational diabetes “may have some degree of control. Sticking to a healthy diet may greatly reduce their chances for developing diabetes later in life.” But the question of what kind of diet and what foods to eat remains.
In the study, the women who adhered most closely to one of three healthy diets saw a substantial reduction in their chances for developing diabetes: the Mediterranean Diet reduced the risk by 40 percent, the DASH diet by 46 percent and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index pattern by 57 percent. The best diets, the researchers found, were those “rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and included poultry, seafood, and nuts, with limiting intake of red and processed meats.”
It’s not revolutionary dietary advice. More or less, it’s exactly what experts have been advising people — and not just those predisposed to diabetes — to eat for some time now. I mostly choose food that’s whole or barely processed, and produced and prepared the old-fashioned way, with genuinely natural ingredients.
It’s a simple solution, really. Adhering to a healthy diet may not guarantee that I won’t develop type 2 diabetes at some point, but it will always be the best defense I’ve got against it. Along with regular exercise, of course. And that’s part of my regimen, too.
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