A new study published in the BMJ on January 12th suggests that consuming potatoes five times per week increases gestational diabetes risk.
The data for the study was retrieved from the Nurses’ Health Study and comprised self-reported data of over 15,000 women who got pregnant in the timespan between 1991 and 2001. The observational study’s findings suggest that consuming potatoes five times per week increased gestational diabetes risk.
Compared to women who had fewer potato servings per week (under one serving weekly), women who had five servings or above had increased risk of gestational diabetes. This finding has been heavily criticized as the study failed to take into consideration another factor increasing the risk of gestational diabetes: weight gain during pregnancy.
MD, Ph.D. Cuilin Zhang and lead author on the study stated that potatoes are linked to a worsening of glucose response in our bodies, high levels of consumption increase the risk of gestational diabetes. In the U.S., the dietary guidelines refer to potatoes as vegetables. In the U.K. potatoes are labeled as starchy food. Nonetheless, in both countries and dietary guidelines sets potatoes are regarded as a healthy food.
As they should be, according to Keith Thomas Ayoob, nutritionist and associate clinical professor with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Cited by the Medscape website, he stated:
“When you demonize one food you pull your focus from the whole picture, which is where good health and balance really live”.
Potatoes are an important source of vitamin C, fiber and proteins, as well as potassium. Consumed worldwide, they are the main nutrient source for many communities. However, the recently published study found that high consumption levels of potatoes, particularly in the form of french fries increased the risk of gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes following birth.
According to Doctor Zhang and colleagues, starch found in potatoes is quickly absorbed. This process leads to heightened levels of blood glucose. It is for this reason that the link between too many potato servings per week and gestational diabetes should be further investigated.
The participants followed throughout the study self-reported the number of their potato servings and the way these were cooked. In addition, the participants self-reported gestational diabetes when it was diagnosed. 94 percent of the diagnoses were confirmed by the women’s medical records. Overall, 854 women were diagnosed with gestational diabetes over the 10-year-timeframe.
None of the participants had type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, cancer or cardiovascular disease prior to becoming pregnant. 90 percent of the participants in the study were white.
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