A growing proportion of pregnant women suffer from diabetes during pregnancy (GDM; gestational diabetes), placing the next generation at extreme risk for fetal complications, future obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Fortuitously though, small and simple changes in diet or physical activity can have profound positive effects on maternal and fetal health. The vision for my program of research is to develop and test simple lifestyle strategies to optimise the treatment and prevention of GDM and its associated complications. Here a series of translational studies will be conducted with human experimental trials to determine their efficacy for improving cardiometabolic health. Currently, treatment for GDM typically involves medication and a healthy eating plan, with general advice given for physical activity.
However, only 37% of women meet the physical activity recommendations in pregnancy. In contrast, we have recently shown that advice to perform 10-min walks after meals reduces postprandial hyperglycemia by 30%. Furthermore, adherence to physical activity is significantly higher compared to a control group receiving general physical activity advice. Another proposed strategy is a bedtime snack to control overnight blood glucose and improve fasting glucose levels. In a small controlled study, we have previously shown that a low-carbohydrate protein snack lowered fasting glucose levels in type 2 diabetes.
We now aim to test this bedtime protein snack strategy in GDM. This is of particular importance as a treatment strategy given the new diagnostic criteria has increased the number of women being diagnosed with GDM by high fasting glucose levels. Results from trials such as these will then be translated to community-based lifestyle interventions for treating and preventing GDM and future diabetes.
National Health and Medical Research Institute
Investigator Grant (Emerging Leader 1)
2019 – 2024
University of Wollongong