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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
February 2012

Animal Fat Consumption Linked to Diabetes Risk in Pregnancy

A new study suggests that women who consume high quantities of animal fat during preganancy may have an increased risk of gestational diabetes.

Some women develop gestational diabetes late in pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually disappears after the birth of the baby, women who have had gestational diabetes have a 20-50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 5-10 years. Maintaining a reasonable body weight and being physically active may help prevent development of gestational diabetes turning into type 2 diabetes.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 13,745 women from the Nurses' Health Study II. Of these women, 860 gestational diabetes cases were identified. Data on fat consumption and fat sources were evaluated to assess potential associations between animal fat consumption and diabetes risk.

The researchers found that high animal fat and cholesterol consumption were significantly linked to increased risk of diabetes during pregnancy. The authors reported no associations between diabetes and polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat or trans fat intakes. Additional research is necessary to further evaluate these findings.

As with type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes occurs more often in some ethnic groups and among women with a family history of diabetes. Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin. Women with gestational diabetes may not experience any symptoms. When a woman has diabetes and her blood sugar is poorly controlled and too high, excess amounts of sugar are transported to the baby. Since the baby does not have diabetes, the fetus is able to increase the production of insulin substantially in order to use this extra sugar. This abnormal cycle of events can result in several complications including macrosomia (large baby, over 8.8 pounds), neonatal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), stillbirth, and birth defects (such as brain, spinal cord, or heart conditions).

The only treatment for gestational diabetes is insulin, as oral anti-diabetic medications cannot be used in pregnancy due to the possible risks.

For more information about diabetes during pregnancy, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Bowers K, Tobias DK, Yeung E, et al. A prospective study of prepregnancy dietary fat intake and risk of gestational diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb;95(2):446-53. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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