In the initial stage of gestational diabetes, diagnosed women are usually treated with medical nutrition therapy, which typically means limiting the amount and distribution of carbohydrates to maintain glycemic control. The method has been thought to help women avoid insulin injections, although there has been little evidence to support this.
A recent study has found that reducing carbohydrates did not reduce the need for insulin in a small, randomized, controlled experiment.
Researchers followed 152 women who were pregnant with one child and had gestational diabetes. The women were either prescribed a low-carb diet or a diet with normal carbohydrate intake. These patients were given a glucose meter and instructed to self-test and record their levels. They were also told to record their carbohydrate intake in a 3-day food record.
The percentage of women who were started on insulin was 54.7% in both the low-carb group and the control group.
The study also found that limiting carbohydrates did not change the pregnancy or birth outcomes. There were no differences found between the two groups in the areas of ketonuria, maternal weight gain or hypertension, cesarean, gestational age at delivery, stillbirth, birth size for gestational age, or newborn hypoglycemia.
The authors of the study concluded that low-carb diets neither helped avoid insulin nor improved pregnancy outcomes. They wrote, “Additional randomized intervention studies that consider different populations and different strategies to modify glycemic load are warranted to assess the optimal [approach].”
Moreno-Castilla C, et al. Low-carbohydrate diet for the treatment of gestational diabetes. American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care; Published online before print April 5, 2013, doi: 10.2337/dc12-2714.