Study: Balanced Diet, Exercise May Not Prevent Gestational Diabetes

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By : dLife Editors

A new study from Louisiana State University is the latest evidence that the “first-line” strategy– diet and exercise, for preventing gestational diabetes may not be working.

How was the Study Conducted?

The LSU Pennington Biomedical study involved pregnant women who took part in clinical trials focused on limiting weight gain in order to prevent gestational diabetes.

The five-year study looked at 62 pregnant women with obesity. Nine developed gestational diabetes.

The moms-to-be improved their diet quality, ate less, and increased their physical activity. The researchers found they also developed gestational diabetes at about the same rates as the women who didn’t change their diet or activity levels.

Researchers found:

  • The primary risk factors for gestational diabetes, such as excess fat and insulin resistance, were evident early in pregnancy.
  • Women that developed gestational diabetes tended to be heavier. They weighed 10 pounds to 35 pounds more. They also had more body fat, from 7 pounds to 25 pounds, and significantly more fat around their waists.
  • The women also had more relatives with diabetes, significantly higher fasting blood sugar levels and a greater prevalence of prediabetes.

“Our data suggest that in pregnancy, energy balance — the calories consumed versus the calories burned — may not determine the development of gestational diabetes,” said Dr. Leanne Redman, director of LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Women’s Health Lab in a release. “We and others now believe that there are different types of gestational diabetes that warrant different approaches to treatment and prevention.”

The researchers conclude that preventing gestational diabetes is not as simple as reducing weight gain and it may require more individualized approaches based on each person’s risk factors.

Some women, the researchers explain, may develop gestational diabetes because their pancreas doesn’t adapt adequately to producing additional insulin to match the increased demand during pregnancy. Others may develop gestational diabetes because their muscles and livers become more insulin resistant.

In spite of the findings, Redman said the study’s findings do not mean that pregnant women should abandon their efforts to eat a more healthy diet and be physically active.

The study has been published in Cell Metabolism.


  1. Louisiana State University. (2019, January 7). Balanced diet, exercise may not prevent gestational diabetes: New study suggests best treatments may be tied to individuals’ risk factors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 8, 2019, from