Intermittent fasting may benefit women with gestational diabetes

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Experts say finding a diet that works can help prevent future long-term health risks for women

Several studies have highlighted the health benefits of intermittent fasting -- particularly for those with diabetes. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of South Australia explored how women with gestational diabetes can use the diet to their advantage. 

According to their findings, adopting an intermittent fasting eating regimen may help women with gestational diabetes lose weight and prevent future health risks. They recommend the 5:2 plan, which includes five days of consumers eating normally and two days in which they significantly limit calories. 

“Healthy eating and regular physical activity are recommended to manage gestational diabetes, with continuous energy restriction diets -- or diets that cut calories by 25-30% -- being the most common strategy for weight loss and diabetes prevention,” said researcher Dr. Kristy Gray. “The trouble is, however, that new mums put themselves last -- they’re struggling with fatigue and juggling family responsibilities -- so when it comes to weight loss, many find it hard to stick to a low calorie diet. 

“The 5:2 diet may provide a less overwhelming option,” Dr. Gray said. “As it only cuts calories over two days, some women may find it easier to adopt and adhere to, as opposed to a consistently low-calorie diet requiring constant management.” 

The benefits of intermittent fasting

For the study, the researchers had nearly 70 women follow one of two diets for one year: either the 5:2 diet or a continuous energy-restricted diet of about 1500 calories per day. All of the women had previously been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and struggled with their weight after giving birth. 

The goal of the trial was to determine if intermittent fasting would emerge as another effective weight loss method for women who had gestational diabetes. The researchers learned that restricting calories in this way was equally as effective as the continuous energy-restricted diet. 

“Our research shows that the 5:2 diet is just as effective at achieving weight loss as a continuous energy-restricted diet in women who have had gestational diabetes, which is great, because it provides women with greater choice and control,” said Dr. Gray. 

In addition to weight loss, the researchers learned that following the intermittent fasting diet yielded similar results for the women’s fasting plasma glucose, blood sugar, and fasting serum insulin. Moving forward, they hope pregnant women with gestational diabetes consider these findings after giving birth. 

“Of course, women should seek advice from a health professional before commencing this type of diet, to make sure that it’s suitable for them,” Dr. Gray said. 

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