A new study has found that consuming a low GI diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding could help reduce a child’s risk of developing obesity and diabetes in later life.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide’s FOODplus Research Centre, showed that female offspring born to mothers who were fed on a low GI diet had better glucose tolerance and lower abdominal fat mass compared to those whose mothers were fed a higher GI diet, which had a similar GI to the typical Australian diet.
While previous studies in humans have shown that consuming a low GI diet in pregnancy can improve the health of the baby at birth, this is the first study to report that maternal low GI diets also have benefits for the long-term health of the offspring.
Dr Beverly Muhlhausler, the lead researcher, carried out the project in collaboration with Professor Jennie Brand-Miller at the University of Sydney, and used an animal model to study the offspring of mothers fed low or high GI diets during pregnancy and lactation.
“There is a large literature on the benefits of consuming low GI diets in adult humans and, more recently, a series of studies which had reported that low GI diets also had benefits for the metabolic health of pregnant women and could improve neonatal outcomes in their offspring,” said Dr Muhlhausler.
“In this study, we wanted to extend these previous findings to determine whether consuming a lower GI diet during pregnancy could also improve the metabolic health of the children later in life,” she said.
“The findings of this study indicate that switching to a low GI diet during pregnancy and lactation, i.e. a relatively modest dietary change, has the potential to have lasting benefits for the metabolic health outcomes of the offspring, and reduce their risk of obesity and diabetes later in life”.
Reducing the GI of the diet involves replacing carbohydrates that are rapidly digested with carbohydrates are digested more slowly. To ensure, it’s a healthy food overall, consumers should look for the Certified Low GI mark mark when shopping.
“Pregnancy is often a time when women are particularly conscious of their diet, knowing that their dietary choices are not only important for their own health, but also for their baby,” said Dr Muhlhausler.
“We are particularly excited about this research because low GI diets have already been shown to be safe for pregnant women, low GI alternatives to most common foods are readily available and previous reports have shown that consumers find low GI diets relatively easy to follow. Thus, if we can get the message out there about the benefits of low GI diets in pregnancy and lactation, we have a real opportunity to improve the health of future generations”.
The next phase of this research, which will be funded by a grant from the Channel 7 Children’s Health Research Foundation, will be to test whether consuming a low GI diet during pregnancy can reduce the negative impact of maternal obesity and diabetes on body fat mass and glucose tolerance in the offspring.
The findings are just one of the many research abstracts to be discussed at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2013, from August 25-28 at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.