- Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. The condition can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Data from a recent study shows that regular coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in people with a history of gestational diabetes.
- Those with gestational diabetes can make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to many negative health consequences if left untreated.
Gestational diabetes is a specific type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D) after a pregnant person gives birth.
Researchers are still working to find the best ways to reduce the risk of T2D in people with gestational diabetes.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined how consuming coffee may reduce the risk of T2D in people with a history of gestational diabetes.
The results show that habitual coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing T2D, particularly when artificially sweetened beverages were replaced by coffee.
Gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes risk
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. The condition may increase the risk of certain adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Author and gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Wong from Bridgeport Hospital in Connecticut who was not involved in the study explained to Medical News Today:
“Uncontrolled diabetes in pregnancy is associated with a number of adverse pregnancy and neonatal consequences, including excessive fetal growth, difficult delivery, birth injuries, and low blood sugar levels in the baby after birth.”
After a baby is born, blood sugar levels usually return to normal. However, people diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) later in life.
Author not working on the study Dr. Jennifer Meller, Chief Medical Officer at Sweetch, explained to MNT:
“Pregnancy naturally leads to insulin resistance, as the placenta produces hormones that ensure that the developing fetus has plenty of glucose and nutrients. When a woman has gestational diabetes, her pancreas is unable to increase insulin production to make up for this new insulin-resistant condition. It is assumed that this inability is due to an underlying predisposition to diabetes. Women who develop gestational diabetes are already at risk of diabetes, and pregnancy-related insulin resistance simply exposes this predisposition.”
Researchers are still working to find out how people in this risk group can best lower their chances of developing T2D.
Coffee reduces type 2 diabetes risk
For the study, the researchers investigated whether regular coffee consumption among nurses in the USA with a history of gestational diabetes was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
They included over 4,500 participants in their analysis, using data from an ongoing prospective cohort study called the NHS (Nurses’ Health Study) II. The investigation included baseline data and regular follow-up. The participants were followed for just over 24 years on average.
They found that participants who consumed caffeinated coffee had a lower risk of developing T2D than participants who did not.
They also found that switching from 1 cup of a sugar-sweetened beverage to coffee per day was associated with a 17% reduction in T2D risk. In addition, replacing one cup of artificially sweetened beverages with coffee per day was associated with a 9% reduced risk.
Study author Cuilin Zhang Ph.D., director of the Global Centre for Asian Women’s Health (GloW) and professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, told MNT the study’s key findings:
“Women who have diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) often have a fairly high risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in their lives. Coffee was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in these vulnerable women when consumed properly (2—5 cups per day, without sugar and full fat [or] high-fat dairy products). Replacing sugary drinks with coffee was also associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”
Areas for further research on coffee and T2D
Despite the positive effects, the study had several limitations.
First, it was based on participants’ self-disclosure, meaning that there is a possibility of errors in data collection.
There is also the possibility of remaining confusion. The researchers did not collect any data on coffee preparation methods or on “the consumption of coffee with sugar and [or] dairy products.” This may have had an impact on the results of the study, but researchers have adjusted the overall sugar intake.
Most participants were Caucasian nurses, meaning the findings may not be generalizable. This also points to the need for more diverse research in this area.
Dr. Wong pointed out the following precautionary measures about the study’s findings:
“While this study provides an interesting biological basis for the role of coffee in glucose metabolism, the study is not designed to quantify the impact of coffee consumption on the development of diabetes. In particular, given the limitations not only of the study design but also the scope of the findings, many more studies are needed before recommendations can be made on coffee consumption as a measure to reduce the life-long risk of diabetes.”
Dr. Zhang added that researchers could conduct intervention studies on coffee consumption and examine the effects of coffee consumption on different populations.
“More studies are needed to examine the role of coffee consumption in a local context with important health consequences,” said Dr. Zhang.
A healthy lifestyle helps prevent T2D
Those diagnosed with gestational diabetes should talk to their healthcare team to understand their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
They can also take proactive steps to reduce their risk of developing T2D after pregnancy, including regular diabetes testing, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly.
Dr. Meller gave some tips on T2D prevention for people with a history of gestational diabetes:
If possible, breast-feed or breast-feed
Although the mechanism is unclear, people who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing T2D than people who don’t.
If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, you may want to talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. If your situation requires that your child be formula fed, there are other options available to reduce your risk of T2D.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
A healthy diet and regular exercise to keep your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference within a healthy range are critical to overall health, particularly when it comes to preventing T2D.
Studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the annual incidence of diabetes by 30 to 50 percent, compared to no intervention.
For some people, taking medications such as metformin may be helpful to prevent the onset of T2D. Ask your doctor about your options to find the best course of action for your individual needs.