A new scientific study has found women who eat fried takeaway food regularly before conceiving are up to twice as likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy than fast food abstainers. In other words, being healthy prior to falling pregnant is beneficial to the health of both the mother and baby. Who would've thunk it?
Pregnant fried food picture from Shutterstock
Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US analysed more than 21,000 pregnancies to examine the association between prepregnancy fried food consumption and the risk of subsequent gestational diabetes (GDM). Participants received a questionnaire every two years regarding disease outcomes and lifestyle behaviours; including their fried food eating habits, both at home and away from home.
For those who don't know, GDM is a complication during pregnancy that can cause abnormally high blood glucose in the mother and health problems for the child, including increased birthweight, jaundice and even stillbirths. It can also lead to non-gestational type 2 diabetes in the mother.
After adjustment for age and other non-dietary factors, the study found that women who consumed fried foods up to three times per week were 1.13 times more likely to develop GDM than women who consumed less than once per week. Things also got worse with the number of meals per week: participants who consumed fried foods an average of seven times a week were more than twice as likely to get the disease.
After adjusting for participants' body mass index (BMI), the risk ratio became less severe but was still worryingly high: GDM among women who consumed total fried foods 1-3, 4-6, and 7 or more times per week, compared with those who consumed less than once per week, were 1.06, 1.14, and 1.88 respectively.
The authors suggest that the increased risk of GDM from fried food may be the result of harmful by-products generated during the frying process:
"Frying deteriorates oils through the processes of oxidation and hydrogenation, leading to an increase in the absorption of oil degradation products by the foods being fried, and also a loss of unsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acids and an increase in the corresponding trans fatty acids such as trans-linoleic acids and trans-linolenic acids."
As the study notes, frying also results in significantly higher levels of dietary advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which have been linked to insulin resistance, pancreatic beta-cell damage, and diabetes.
Interestingly, the level of risk was found to be higher in fried foods purchased ready-to-eat than fried foods cooked at home. This is because the deterioration of oils during frying is more profound when the oils are reused, such as at fast food restaurants.
The study concludes that limiting fried food consumption could prove beneficial in the prevention of GDM in women of reproductive age. If you're trying to conceive, it's time to reacquaint yourself with a salad bar — and that goes for husbands/partners too. Support through solidarity!