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Healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy by 90%: NUS study

Even if you're overweight and have a history of gestational diabetes in the family, making healthier choices such as eating a good diet can help. 

Healthy lifestyle can reduce risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy by 90%: NUS study

Have a history of gestational diabetes? Don't give up on making healthier choices, a study suggests. (Photo: iStock/AsiaVision)

Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle can lower a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes during pregnancy, even if she has a history of gestational diabetes in her family, local researchers have found. 

As part of a study whose results were released on Thursday (Sep 22), researchers from the National University of Singapore observed the data of 4,275 women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) – all of whom are part of a white cohort in the United States that has been followed up with since 1989. 

Of these, 924 women had developed type 2 diabetes over a follow-up period of 28 years.

Researchers found a relationship between women who did not develop type 2 diabetes and their levels of the following modifiable risk factors: A normal body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9, a high-quality diet, regular exercise, abstinence from smoking and moderate alcohol consumption.

They then concluded that those who had optimum levels of the elements above had their risk of developing type 2 diabetes reduced by about 90 per cent.

Researchers saw that even among women who were genetically predisposed to developing diabetes and were overweight, the risk was significantly reduced when effort was put into controlling other risk factors such as diet and exercise.

These findings convey a "hopeful and powerful message to women at exceptionally high risk and women with a history of GDM", said Professor Zhang Cuilin, faculty member of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, NUS. 

The first author of the study, Dr Jiaxi Yang, a research fellow in the Global Centre for Asian Women’s Health and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NUS Medicine, commented: “Although causal relationships cannot be established given the observational nature of the study, ample evidence consistently support the effectiveness of healthy lifestyles in preventing obesity or type 2 diabetes, and on improving cardiometabolic health among diverse populations.”

In a press release, NUS said further studies such as this one are warranted because of an "alarmingly high prevalence of GDM "in Asia broadly and in Singapore particularly", where up to one in five pregnant women are at risk of the condition. 

Source: CNA/hs
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