Weight loss after gestational diabetes can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Yet finding the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off can be a challenge, especially for mothers with a new baby.
Now, new research from the University of South Australia suggests that the popular 5:2 diet, a version of intermittent fasting, is just as effective as a conventional calorie-restricting diet.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy in women who don't already have diabetes. Globally, one in five pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes, with these women having a ten-fold risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Women who have had gestational diabetes and are also overweight are at an even higher risk. Type 2 diabetes has lifelong consequences and can lead to other chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Healthy eating and regular physical activity are recommended to manage gestational diabetes. Continuous calorie restriction diets – or diets that cut calories by 25-30 per cent – are the most common strategies for weight loss and diabetes prevention.
New mums often struggle with fatigue and juggling family responsibilities and, therefore, many find it hard to stick to a low-calorie diet.
The 5:2 diet allows five days of normal eating each week while substantially restricting calories over two days a week, as opposed to a typical diet that requires eating fewer calories every day. Some women may find it easier to adopt and adhere to, as opposed to a consistently low-calorie diet requiring constant management.
About the study
The research, a 12-month randomized controlled trial, investigated the effects of both the 5:2 diet (five days of normal eating and two days of 500 calories) and a continuous energy-restricted diet (1500 calories per day) on weight loss and diabetes risk markers in 121 overweight women with a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Both diets restricted calories by approximately 25 percent each week.
Only 62 women completed the study. The findings showed that the 5:2 diet was just as effective at achieving weight loss as a continuous calorie-restricted diet in women who had had gestational diabetes
The lead researcher advised that “women should seek advice from a health professional before commencing this type of diet, to make sure that it is suitable for them.”
The high dropout rate in this study is a limitation. Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2, 2021.
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