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Animal protein intake and gestational diabetes risk

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JOCELYN HAS BEEN FEATURED ON:

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of plant-based and plant-majority diets, having had two plant-based pregnancies myself and having progressed to a low-carb plant-based diet for the last four years.

I have seen the health benefits in myself, and in hundreds of my own patients, by increasing the plant sources of proteins and fats, and keeping the majority of their own plates vegetable-based. We know that increasing the percentage of plants in one’s diets – including nuts, seeds, veggies and berries – increases fibre intake, improves cholesterol balance, and provides great sources of minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Two of the biggest challenges my patients have with incorporating more plants in their diets are an over-reliance on carbohydrates and inadequate protein intake. Guiding my patients in trading out grains like white rice, corn and white flour and increasing whole grains like quinoa and in adding particular nuts (including brazil nuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and almonds), seeds (including hemp hearts, chia, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and flax), and legumes (including organic non-GMO soy and pea protein shakes like Vega) to their daily meals is a frequent focus.

Now, a new joint Malaysian-Dutch study has examined the impact of animal protein intake – particularly red meat – in increased gestational diabetes (GDM) risk. Like many developing countries, Malaysia has seen increased meat consumption over the past century with the largest proportion from red meat. The study found that higher intakes of plant-protein specifically nuts and legumes are associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes. The hypothesis is that the high anti-oxidant and fibre content of plant protein may lessen the negative effects of inflammation and insulin resistance, as well as oxidative damage.

The study also found that the highest tertile of animal protein intake (≥42.15 g/day), was significantly associated with the risk of GDM. Further, the study found that the highest tertile of red meat protein (≥ 2.94 g protein per day) in the second trimester was significantly associated with the risk of developing GDM. 

As I share more in the nutritional modules of my fertility and pregnancy programs, including a module specifically on GDM, in general I recommend that pregnant patients aim for 20-30g of protein per meal. This can be achieved with plant-based sources (nuts, seeds, legumes as discussed), or if choosing meat options by prioritizing fish and eggs over red meat (wild and/or organic if possible!). And no matter what the protein sources, keeping half of the plate every meal as vegetables (avocados and peppers added to breakfast, salads/stir-fries/soups added to lunches and suppers with plenty of dark leafy greens and sprouts when possible) can go a long way to a healthy pregnancy and baby.

I hope you have found this helpful, and do let me know if you have any questions!

If you are hungry for more evidence-based information for your fertility or pregnancy journey, visit www.myhealthypregnancyplan.com for free webinars and complete programs.

And if you are a care-provider looking for evidence-based resources for your fertility or pregnancy patients, please get in touch with us at support@myhealthypregnancyplan.com.

In health,

Dr Jocelyn Land-Murphy, ND

Terra Life

Disclaimer: The information and content provided is for general educational and informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. Please consult the Disclaimer and Terms of Use for full details.

References:

Yong, H. et al. (2021).Higher Animal Protein Intake During the Second Trimester of Pregnancy Is Associated With Risk of GDM. Front Nutr, 8: 718792.

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