GDM is becoming more frequent around the world alongside a rise in obesity and can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth as well as increasing the risk of metabolic disease in the child in later life. High levels of glucose in mothers with GDM have been suggested to trigger epigenetic changes in the developing fetus (chemical modifications to the genetic blueprint of the fetus that function of genes activity) resulting in adverse health outcomes for the child.
Researchers from the University of Southampton and King’s College London studied data from over 550 pregnant women with obesity and their children, from the UK Pregnancies Better Eating and Activity Trial (UPBEAT). The trial aims to improve the diet and physical activity of obese pregnant women across the UK. Compared to women in a control group, who made no changes to their lifestyle during pregnancy, women who were supported in changing their diet to lower glycemic index foods that are broken down less quickly by the body, a reduced fat intake and increasing their physical activity put on less weight and were metabolically healthier.