New Delhi, Oct. 8: The consumption of fried foods by women preparing to conceive appears to raise their risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, a new study has suggested.
The study by a team of US researchers has found that the greater the number of times that women consumed fried foods per week, the higher was their risk of developing gestational diabetes when they became pregnant.
Gestational diabetes, which affects 4 per cent to 26 per cent of pregnant women in different regions of the world, is marked by abnormally high blood glucose levels and can lead to unusually high birth-weight, jaundice or other complications in the babies after birth. Some women with gestational diabetes may also develop full-blown diabetes within five years after pregnancy.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study that shows a positive association between consumption of fried foods prior to conception and the risk of gestational diabetes,” Cuilin Zhang, a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health in the US who led the study, told The Telegraph.
Zhang and her colleagues documented 847 cases of gestational diabetes among 15,027 female nurses in the US whose health and food habits were tracked for several years. They also found that the risk of gestational diabetes was higher when fried foods were consumed outside home.
Their study, published today in the journal Diabetologia, found that the relative risk of developing gestational diabetes was 2.18 times higher in women who consumed fried foods over seven times a week compared to those who consumed fried foods less than once a week.
The researchers caution that their study does not establish that fried foods causes gestational diabetes but only reveals a possible association that needs to be validated through more rigorous clinical studies.
Asians, overweight and obese women are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.
“It’s hitting the roof in India,” said Girija Wagh, a gynaecologist-obstetrician who is the chairperson of a subcommittee of doctors examining issues relating to disorders during pregnancy established by the Federation of Indian Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India. Surveys in India, she said, suggest that 8 per cent to 26 per cent pregnant women in India develop gestational diabetes.
The US researchers say they can for now only speculate on the likely mechanisms to explain the association they have observed.
Frying degrades oils through the processes of oxidation and hydrogenation, leading to an increase in the absorption of oil degradation products by the foods being fried and also a loss of unsaturated fatty acids.
Frying also results in significantly higher levels of dietary advanced glycation end (AGEs) products, the derivatives of glucose-protein and glucose-far interactions.
“These AGEs have recently been implicated in insulin resistance, pancreatic beta cell damage and diabetes, partly because they promote oxidative stress and inflammation,” Zhang said.
“This deterioration of oils is more profound when the oils are reused, a practice more common away from home than at home,” she said. “This may partly explain why we observed a stronger association of gestational diabetes with fried foods consumed away from home than fried foods consumed at home.”
Wagh said the Federation of the Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India has been encouraging its member physicians to caution women in India about the risks of gestational diabetes.