Bacon, Eggs, & Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy

Bacon, Eggs, & Gestational Diabetes During Pregnancy
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Eating meat or eggs before pregnancy may increase the risk of gestational diabetes.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Gestational diabetes—high blood sugar levels that develop when you’re pregnant—”is one of the most common complications of pregnancy.” It’s associated with abnormal fetal growth, infant mortality, pre-eclampsia (which can put the mom’s health at risk), and various major birth defects. Is there anything we can do to prevent it?

Well, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that eating meat before pregnancy appeared to increase subsequent diabetes risk during pregnancy. They suggest that the carcinogenic nitrosamines in bacon, and other processed meat, may be toxic to insulin-producing cells. This may be why ham, and other lunch meats, may play a role in initiating type 1 diabetes. But, increased risk was also found for non-processed meat, too. So, instead, it may be the glycotoxins—the advanced glycation end products formed in meat, causing inflammation—which has been tied to gestational diabetes.

More recently, though, attention has turned to the blood-based heme iron in animal products. Higher pre-pregnancy intake of dietary heme iron is associated with an increased [gestational diabetes] risk. Now, we’ve known that intake of the heme iron from animal products was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes in women. But, we didn’t know about the gestational diabetes, until recently. Now for type 2 diabetes, only animal-based iron was associated with diabetes risk.

The more plant-based, or non-heme iron, was not. This is thought to be because our bodies can’t regulate the absorption of the blood-based iron as well, and so, chronically high intakes can lead to too much in the body. The same thing was found for gestational diabetes. Blood-based iron was associated with as much as triple the increased risk. But, if anything, there was a trend towards the non-heme, or plant-based, iron being protective against diabetes.

Either way, this explains why pregnant women who eat vegetarian appear to be at significantly lower risk of developing diabetes. But, this study was in India, where vegetarians tend to avoid eggs as well. A more recent Harvard study found that “[h]igher prepregnancy intakes of animal fat and cholesterol were associated with elevated [gestational diabetes] risk.” Substituting in 5% animal fat for 5% carbs was associated with a 13% increased risk of gestational diabetes.

But, if it’s not just the animal fat, but the cholesterol, too, then one would expect eggs to increase one’s risk of diabetes during pregnancy, as well. But, it had never been directly studied, until now. The risk of gestational diabetes in relation to maternal egg intake.

Apparently, the more eggs women ate before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, the higher their risk of developing diabetes during their pregnancies. And, these findings are consistent with other studies documenting associations with cholesterol intake and the development of regular (type 2) diabetes in men and non-pregnant women.

In fact, women who develop gestational diabetes are like seven times more likely to go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. So, pregnancy is viewed as a teachable moment. “Pregnant women…are often highly motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes for both their own health and that of their offspring. Thus, pregnancy may be a critical opportunity for both short- and long-term behavior modification representing a window of opportunity for health care providers to change lifestyle patterns toward the acquisition of healthier habits.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Thanks to Ellen Reid for her image-finding expertise, and Jeff Thomas for his Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Gestational diabetes—high blood sugar levels that develop when you’re pregnant—”is one of the most common complications of pregnancy.” It’s associated with abnormal fetal growth, infant mortality, pre-eclampsia (which can put the mom’s health at risk), and various major birth defects. Is there anything we can do to prevent it?

Well, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that eating meat before pregnancy appeared to increase subsequent diabetes risk during pregnancy. They suggest that the carcinogenic nitrosamines in bacon, and other processed meat, may be toxic to insulin-producing cells. This may be why ham, and other lunch meats, may play a role in initiating type 1 diabetes. But, increased risk was also found for non-processed meat, too. So, instead, it may be the glycotoxins—the advanced glycation end products formed in meat, causing inflammation—which has been tied to gestational diabetes.

More recently, though, attention has turned to the blood-based heme iron in animal products. Higher pre-pregnancy intake of dietary heme iron is associated with an increased [gestational diabetes] risk. Now, we’ve known that intake of the heme iron from animal products was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes in women. But, we didn’t know about the gestational diabetes, until recently. Now for type 2 diabetes, only animal-based iron was associated with diabetes risk.

The more plant-based, or non-heme iron, was not. This is thought to be because our bodies can’t regulate the absorption of the blood-based iron as well, and so, chronically high intakes can lead to too much in the body. The same thing was found for gestational diabetes. Blood-based iron was associated with as much as triple the increased risk. But, if anything, there was a trend towards the non-heme, or plant-based, iron being protective against diabetes.

Either way, this explains why pregnant women who eat vegetarian appear to be at significantly lower risk of developing diabetes. But, this study was in India, where vegetarians tend to avoid eggs as well. A more recent Harvard study found that “[h]igher prepregnancy intakes of animal fat and cholesterol were associated with elevated [gestational diabetes] risk.” Substituting in 5% animal fat for 5% carbs was associated with a 13% increased risk of gestational diabetes.

But, if it’s not just the animal fat, but the cholesterol, too, then one would expect eggs to increase one’s risk of diabetes during pregnancy, as well. But, it had never been directly studied, until now. The risk of gestational diabetes in relation to maternal egg intake.

Apparently, the more eggs women ate before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, the higher their risk of developing diabetes during their pregnancies. And, these findings are consistent with other studies documenting associations with cholesterol intake and the development of regular (type 2) diabetes in men and non-pregnant women.

In fact, women who develop gestational diabetes are like seven times more likely to go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. So, pregnancy is viewed as a teachable moment. “Pregnant women…are often highly motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes for both their own health and that of their offspring. Thus, pregnancy may be a critical opportunity for both short- and long-term behavior modification representing a window of opportunity for health care providers to change lifestyle patterns toward the acquisition of healthier habits.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Thanks to Ellen Reid for her image-finding expertise, and Jeff Thomas for his Keynote help.

Doctor's Note

I recently covered eggs and regular (type 2) diabetes in Eggs & Diabetes.

More on advanced glycation end products in Glycotoxins and Avoiding a Sugary Grave.

The heme iron in animal products is one of the toxic components the meat industry is trying to develop strategies to mediate. See Meat Additives to Diminish Toxicity. More on heme versus nonheme iron in Risk Associated with Iron Supplements.

What else has the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study shown us? See:

For other cautionary pregnancy tales, see:

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