Recent research shows that women who eat a diet high in potatoes might have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.


Potatoes seem to be on every menu and for good reason: The starchy tubers are cheap, nutritious and delicious. Although once only widely eaten in Europe, North America and eastern Europe, recent years have seen increases in consumption in the rest of the world, with China currently the largest producer, accounting for one-third of potatoes grown globally. So what’s the downside to the spud’s spread?

Research Weighs In

Although potatoes include high levels of vitamin C and B6, folate, magnesium, iron, zinc and other healthy compounds, researchers are now warning that a diet high in the tuber isn’t all good, especially for women of childbearing age.

A study recently published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) followed nearly 22,000 pregnancies over a 10-year period. The individuals, who had no previous gestational diabetes or chronic diseases, filled out a diet questionnaire every four years. More than 850 of the pregnancies studied were affected by gestational diabetes. Controlling for a variety of factors like age, family history and Body Mass Index, researchers from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and Harvard University discovered that a high rate of potato consumption before pregnancy increases risk of gestational diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, this can increase the baby’s birth weight, cause preterm birth and increases risks of hypoglycemia and later developing Type 2 diabetes. It also contributes to a variety of health issues for the mother, as well.

A not-so-surprising outcome

Although more research is needed, researchers say the results of this study are not really unexpected. Previous studies have shown the potato to be high in starch, which gives the tubers a high glycemic index that can lead to a spike in blood glucose levels. Potatoes also are known to increase insulin resistance and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Of course, the cooking method can add to its negative properties. To minimize your risk of gestational diabetes, researchers advise substituting potatoes with other vegetables, legumes or whole-grain foods prior to conceiving.

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