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Gestational diabetes

Sugary cola drinks found to be a huge risk for gestational diabetes during pregnancy

Friday, December 11, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: gestational diabetes, soft drinks, health news

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(NewsTarget) According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 4% of all pregnant women (about 135,000 expectant moms) in the U.S. develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) each year. These are women who have never had diabetes before but suddenly have high blood sugar (glucose) levels during the later part of pregnancies. And if not well controlled, the condition can hurt their babies -- causing newborns to be so extremely large and heavy their shoulders can be damaged during birth. The babies born to women with GDM often have very low blood glucose levels at birth and may likely have breathing problems, too. What's more, babies born with excess insulin due to their mother's GDM often become obese in childhood and they frequently grow into adults who are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

So what causes gestational diabetes? That has remained unclear -- but now scientists have discovered what appears to be one cause. A new study, published in the December issue of the journal Diabetes Care, has found for the first time that drinking more than 5 servings of sugar-sweetened cola drinks weekly prior to becoming pregnant significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy.

"Compared with women who consumed less than 1 serving per month, those who consumed more than 5 servings per week of sugar-sweetened cola had a 22% greater GDM risk," Dr. Liwei Chen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in the New Orleans School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said in a statement to the press.

Although scientists have not yet unraveled the precise underlying mechanism resulting in gestational diabetes, they have some strong clues. Previous studies strongly suggested that the main defect in the development of GDM is diminished secretion of insulin combined with pregnancy-induced insulin resistance.

So how do sugar-laden soft drinks fit into this? The research team behind the new study has suggested several explanations for their findings. For one thing, the high sugar intake associated with the drinks may lead to impaired pancreatic cell function. Drinking a large amount of sugar-sweetened beverages contributes to a high glycemic load (GL). The large amounts of rapidly absorbable sugars cause levels of glucose in the body to spike -- and this can result in insulin resistance and impaired function of pancreatic beta cells, which make insulin.

In their paper, the scientists noted that the only significant association they found between sweet drinks and gestational diabetes involved sugar-sweetened colas. They did not find that other sweet beverages, including fruit drinks, raised the risk of GDM. Dr. Chen suggests that the explanation may simply be that sugar-sweetened colas are tremendously popular in the U.S. and, unfortunately, widely consumed in excess by women of child-bearing years.

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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