A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Helsinki suggests that adopting certain healthy lifestyle habits can lower the risk of gestational diabetes. The findings showed that this was especially true for those who have the highest genetic risk for the condition.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 500 women who were enrolled in the Finnish Gestational Diabetes Prevention Study (RADIEL). The participants received dietary and exercise counseling during pregnancy and in the first year after delivery.
Based on the genes that are known to increase the risk of gestational diabetes, the team gave each participant a polygenic risk score (PRS) to assess their risk of developing diabetes. Those who had high sugar levels during pregnancy and after delivery were considered to have high risk scores.
The researchers learned that adopting a healthy lifestyle -- including following a healthy diet and exercising -- during and after pregnancy was linked with a lower risk of gestational diabetes. For women with the highest risk scores for gestational diabetes, these lifestyle interventions were particularly beneficial.
Moving forward, the team hopes these findings can work to identify women who may have the highest risk of developing gestational diabetes. Knowing who is the most genetically predisposed to gestational diabetes can help target women who would benefit the most from changing their lifestyles during pregnancy and beyond.
“At the same time, it’s important to realize that, in the case of diabetes, our genetic background does not determine our future,” said researcher Emilia Huvinen, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology. “With the help of a healthy lifestyle, you can reverse the effect of a high genetic diabetes risk.”