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February 2016

Potatoes and Pregnancy: Risk for Diabetes?

Eating potatoes before getting pregnant may make it more likely for you to develop gestational diabetes. This form of diabetes occurs during pregnancy.

French fries in two containers

A study published in the journal BMJ looked at nearly 16,000 women who were part of a national health study on nurses. Researchers followed the women for 10 years. During that time, the women gave birth to about 22,000 babies. The researchers also noted nearly 900 cases of gestational diabetes during that period.

The results? A woman who ate 2 to 4 cups of potatoes a week before she became pregnant had a 27% higher risk for gestational diabetes than a woman who did not eat that many potatoes. Eating 5 or more cups of potatoes seemed to raise the risk for gestational diabetes by 50%.

A popular food

Worldwide, more potatoes are eaten than any other food crop except rice and wheat. About 35% of women in the U.S. eat potatoes every day.

Potatoes are a nutritious food: They have plenty of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. But they also contain lots of simple carbohydrates. These simple carbs can raise blood sugar. High blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can affect newborn babies. Newborns may have low blood sugar and breathing problems right after birth.

What to do

The researchers pointed out the study did not prove that potatoes lead to gestational diabetes. But it did show a possible link.

"Women planning for pregnancy should reduce their consumption of potatoes," says Cuilin Zhang, M.D., study author.

Ob-Gyn Raul Artal, M.D., of St. Louis, Mo., agrees. "The key word is judicious," Dr. Artal says. "Eat judiciously. It's OK to eat some potatoes, but not too many."


Learn more about healthy eating during pregnancy.


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