Researchers in Australia to study effect of probiotics on gestational diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on June 5, 2014

A unique study in Australia is set to give pregnant women probiotics in an effort to address the rising incidence of gestational diabetes, a common condition affecting many women.

The study will take place in Brisbane hospitals at a time when there is concern that the number of women diagnosed with the condition is increasing due to a greater number being overweight while pregnant.


Up 50% of women who have gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life

While gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy, up to half of all women who have gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

The new study, being run at Mater Mothers’ Hospital and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, will build on international research suggesting pregnant women who take probiotics, live micro-organisms such as such as bacteria or yeast, are less likely to suffer the condition.

‘Gestational diabetes rates are definitely increasing and there are two obvious factors, which are increasing obesity and women having their babies later,’ said Professor David McIntyre, Head of Mater Clinical School.

‘There is quite a lot of data emerging about probiotics but this will be the first to look at the impact on overweight and obese women,’ he added.

‘It is a timely reminder that women should aim to achieve and maintain a healthy weight before pregnancy and avoid putting on too much pregnancy weight. Gone are the days of needing to eat for two. It is also important to stay active during pregnancy and it is generally safe unless your doctor or midwife advises you otherwise,’ said endocrinologist and obstetric medicine physician, Dr. Penny Wolski.

Experts believe that the number of women in Australia diagnosed with gestational diabetes could soar by around 30% if new diagnostic criteria are adopted by health professionals nationally.

‘The new recommended diagnostic level will help shine a light on the true size of the gestational diabetes problem and, we hope, lead to better management and intervention,’ said Diabetes Queensland CEO Michelle Trute.

‘It also highlights the fact that gestational diabetes is a very real risk women need to be aware of during pregnancy. It can create health problems later in life, with up to half of all women who have gestational diabetes going on to develop type 2 diabetes within 30 years, as well as increased risk of the baby developing type 2 diabetes later in life,’ she explained.

‘Increasing awareness and management of gestational diabetes is essential to reducing the type 2 diabetes epidemic and this is why we are encouraging and supporting a wide understanding of these evidence based guidelines,’ she added.

The new guidelines, developed by the Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS), are based on the major Hyperglycaemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Study (HAPO). They represent an update to the original ADIPS guidelines formulated in 1991.

Under the new ADIPS guidelines the diagnostic threshold for acceptable levels of glucose in the blood has been lowered from 5.5 mmol/L to 5.1mmol/L. Studies predict this will lead to a rise in the prevalence rate of about 3%, or a 30% increase in the number of people diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Diabetes Queensland is hosting a series of forums across Queensland to educate health professionals about the risks associated with gestational diabetes.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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