Children born to women with gestational diabetes – or high blood sugar during pregnancy – who consume more refined grains such as white rice are twice as likely to be obese at age 7, a new study warns.
Researchers at US National Institutes of Health (NIH) noted that previous studies have linked diets high in refined grains to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
They compared records from 918 mother-child pairs in a study that followed the pregnancies of more than 91,000 women in Denmark.
The team found that children born to women with gestational diabetes who consumed the most refined grain (over 156 grammes per day) were twice as likely to be obese at age 7, compared to those born to women with gestational diabetes who ate the least amount of refined grain (less than 37 grammes per day).
The link between maternal grain consumption during pregnancy and obesity by age 7 still persisted when the researchers controlled for factors that could potentially influence the children’s weight – such as physical activity level and consumption of vegetables, fruit and sweets.
The researchers called for additional studies to confirm their results and to follow children through later childhood, adolescence and adulthood to see if the obesity risk persists later in life.