Intermittent fasting can prevent long-term problems for women with gestational diabetes

ADELAIDE, Australia — Pregnancy brings about all sorts of body changes for women. One of those can be gestational diabetes. For some mothers-to-be, placental hormones that elevate blood sugar levels, causing a form of the condition which can eventually develop into type 2 diabetes. However, a new study reveals that pregnant women can prevent gestational diabetes from becoming a chronic condition through intermittent fasting.

Type 2 diabetes can cause major illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. Additionally, some cancers have been linked to type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a common risk factor for the development of diabetes, but other variables can trigger it as well — including the onset of gestational diabetes.

Roughly 20 percent of all pregnancies lead to the development of gestational diabetes. Those women have a risk of developing type 2 diabetes 10 times higher than others, especially if they are overweight.

Previous studies have shown that the reduction of overall weight after pregnancy can help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, however, figuring out the ideal strategy for weight management can prove challenging, especially for women who have just given birth.

Researchers from the University of South Australia found that the “5:2 diet,” or intermittent fasting, may help women successfully shed pounds and maintain a healthy weight better than a traditional calorie-reducing diet because it provides them with more flexibility and control over their health goals.

Fasting can make weight loss easier after pregnancy

The study lasted for one year. Researchers gathered 62 women diagnosed with gestational diabetes and placed them into two groups. One consumed a steady diet of 1,500 calories per day and one used the 5:2 diet, which reduced their calorie intake to 500 two days out of the week. Results show that either diet lowers overall weight in the same amount and rate, however, the 5:2 diet, according to the study, was easier to manage.

“Gestational diabetes is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia, affecting 15% of pregnancies,” says lead scientist Dr. Kristy Gray in a university release. “Healthy eating and regular physical activity are recommended to manage gestational diabetes, with continuous energy restriction diets – or diets that cut calories by 25-30% – being the most common strategy for weight loss and diabetes prevention.”

“The trouble is, however, that new moms often put themselves last – they’re struggling with fatigue and juggling family responsibilities – so when it comes to weight loss, many find it hard to stick to a low-calorie diet. The 5:2 diet may provide a less overwhelming option. As it only cuts calories over two days, some women may find it easier to adopt and adhere to, as opposed to a consistently low-calorie diet requiring constant management,” Dr. Gray continues.

“Our research shows that the 5:2 diet is just as effective at achieving weight loss as a continuous energy-restricted diet in women who have had gestational diabetes, which is great because it provides women with greater choice and control,” the study author concludes. “Of course, women should seek advice from a health professional before commencing this type of diet, to make sure that it is suitable for them.”

The findings appear in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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