It is critical for pregnant women to consume a healthy diet in order to help their baby avoid increased levels of insulin and glucose, both of which are signs of diabetes and metabolic syndrome risk.

It has been known that women who are pregnant should not eat for two people. The quality of a mother’s diet during pregnancy plays an important role in the growth of the fetus and the baby’s glucose and insulin levels when he or she is born.

Prior research demonstrated that a high-fat diet during pregnancy can lead to diabetes, even if the mother is not diabetic or obese.

The current study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and led by the Complutense University of Madrid, set out to examine diet during this critical stage that sees the growth of cells in both number and size.

Prior reports have already indicated that when an insufficient amount of food is being consumed by the pregnant mother, the glucose supply to other tissues is lowered in the fetus in order to make sure that the brain is getting an appropriate amount. This results is reduced fetal growth. This process is referred to as Barker’s thrifty phenotype hypothesis.

“However, the effects of an imbalance between fats, proteins and carbohydrates are not as well-known. In others words, the effect during pregnancy of Western diets that vary greatly from the Mediterranean variety are not well-known,” said Francisco J. Sánchez-Muniz, researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid and an author of the study.

The current report is part of the Estudio Mérida, a large-scale study that examines different parameters in babies and their moms. This research demonstrates that kids are born with an average weight of about 3.3 to 3.5 kilograms when their mothers consume sufficient amounts of energy.

Sánchez-Muniz said:

“Nonetheless, more than half of women have low quality diets that include a high amount of animal products rich in saturated fats yet a low amount of carbohydrates from vegetables and pulses. Furthermore, more than a third of women displayed eating habits that differ greatly from the Mediterranean diet. It is surprising that women do not change their eating habits or diet quality during pregnancy.”

A baby is born with a diabetogenic profile when the mother does not consume a healthy diet during pregnancy. A diabetogenic profile means the person has increased serum glucose and insulin levels and a marker of insulin resistance.

This study supports the idea that an insufficient diet can impact the development of fetal pancreas and the concentration of insulin and glucose at birth.

The authors concluded:

“It is vital to make mothers aware of the importance of eating well during pregnancy with a balanced Mediterranean diet. We must also push for studies amongst the same population group in order to understand how children will develop over time and thus avoid, or at least mitigate, the development of high prevalence diseases within our society.”

Written by Sarah Glynn