(NaturalNews) A new study has found that it is possible to prevent the onset of Gestational Diabetes in an expectant mother by making simple changes in the mother's diet. The study, done by researchers at UCSF(University of California - San Francisco), found that a chemical called serotonin influences the onset of Gestational Diabetes in an expectant mother. Since serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan which is found abundantly in high-protein foods, eating foods rich in protein during early pregnancy may prevent gestational diabetes in pregnant women.
Gestational Diabetes is a condition in which insulin resistance(caused by hormonal changes) leads to high glucose levels or hyperglycemia in some women. It can have serious consequences for the mother and child, if left untreated. According to the researchers, the study "offers new insights into possible ways to reverse non-gestational diabetes in its early stages".
How Does Serotonin Prevent Gestational Diabetes?
Pregnancy can cause several changes in the mother's metabolism. The energy requirements of the fetus are met by increased levels of insulin resistance in the mother's body. Since insulin is the hormone which carries glucose molecules in the blood to the molecular cells, insulin resistance causes the nutrients to be channeled in to the growing fetus instead of going to the mother's body. The mother's body counterbalances the insulin resistance and prevents hyperglycemia by the increased production of insulin-producing beta cells.
Serotonin, a chemical produced by the body and a known neurotransmitter, is the underlying agent that signals the stimulation of beta cell proliferation during the early pregnancy. Since serotonin is made from tryptophan - an amino acid that comes from high-protein foods such as milk, eggs, meat and fish - the study shows that increased intake of high-protein foods during the early pregnancy can cause higher production of serotonin and subsequently higher levels of insulin.
According to UCSF Professor Michael German, MD, who is also the senior author of the paper, tryptophan hydroxylase (Tph1), the enzyme that produces serotonin from tryptophan increased by as much 1000-fold during the early pregnancy. The researchers found that inhibition of serotonin synthesis by restricting the intake of tryptophan in pregnant mice blocked beta cell proliferation and resulted in the development of glucose intolerance and gestational diabetes in the mice.
The research indicates that anything that affects the production of serotonin, such as drugs, diet or genetic inheritance may affect the risk of developing gestational diabetes and possibly the long-term risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Serotonin has been widely studied as a neurotransmitter in the brain for its effects on appetite and mood, especially depression. Since it also influences the insulin production, this could explain why some patients with gestational diabetes experience depression. This would also explain the effect of some classes of psychiatric medications on diabetes.
The study will be published in the upcoming issue of "Nature Medicine" and was published online on June 27, 2010.