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Excess Weight, Obesity and Gestational Diabetes

Excess Weight and Gestational DiabetesExcess weight, obesity and Insulin Resistance are underlying causes of Gestational Diabetes - a condition that develops in the third trimester of pregnancy and affects 4-5 % of all pregnant women in the U.S. That is 135,000 cases each year.

With Gestational Diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin but it doesn't lower the mother's blood sugar levels. The symptoms are only detectable by laboratory testing. Pregnant women get a urine dip stick test with each pre-natal visit. This test may show glucose in the urine, which will prompt a health care provider to carry out further examinations for the presence of Gestational Diabetes, also known as Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM).

To determine if a pregnant woman has this condition, she should be tested between 24 and 28 weeks if she is at average risk i.e. has no prior history of Gestational Diabetes and is of regular weight. Women at higher risk should be tested earlier. A patient is considered high risk if she is obese, has glycosuria (glucose in the urine) or has a personal or family history of Gestational Diabetes.

Laboratory diagnosis of the condition includes a fasting blood glucose of greater than 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or a random blood glucose of 200 mg/dL. An Oral Glucose Tolerance Test should also be carried out. If the glucose level exceeds what is considered normal, this could result in a diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes.

Obesity and Pregnancy

Excess Weight and Gestational DiabetesWomen who are overweight or obese before they become pregnant are most at risk from this disorder. The best way to avoid Gestational Diabetes is to lose weight before becoming pregnant via a low insulin, low Glycemic Index (GI) diet and regular exercise. Gestational Diabetes usually disappears after pregnancy but it can lead to the development of Pre- and Type 2 Diabetes years later.

As a baby grows, it is supported by the placenta. Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop but these hormones can also block the action of insulin in the mother's body. This problem is called Insulin Resistance, which makes it difficult for the mother's body to use insulin in the normal way and requires her to need up to three times as much insulin as when she was not pregnant.

The process starts when the body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood through the cell wall and be converted to energy. Glucose builds up in the blood to high levels, which is called hyperglycemia.

Gestational Diabetes affects the mother in late pregnancy, after the baby's body has been formed and is busy growing. Because of its late development, the disorder does not cause the kinds of birth defects sometimes seen in babies whose mothers had other forms of Diabetes before pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes' Effect on Babies

Excess Weight and Gestational DiabetesHowever, untreated or poorly-controlled Gestational Diabetes can hurt the baby. Although insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose and other nutrients do. As a result, extra blood glucose gives the baby high blood glucose levels causing its pancreas to make extra insulin to get rid of the blood glucose. Since the baby is getting more energy than it needs to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored as fat.

This can lead to macrosomia, or a "fat" baby. Babies with macrosomia face health problems of their own, including damage to their shoulders during birth. Because of the extra insulin created by the baby's pancreas, newborns may have very low blood glucose levels at birth and are also at higher risk for breathing problems. Babies with excess insulin become children who are at risk for obesity and, later, adults who are at risk for Pre- and Type 2 Diabetes. Pre-Diabetes is a reversible condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not in the range of irreversible Type 2 Diabetes.

The best way of preventing Gestational Diabetes is to have a more active lifestyle and not be overweight before pregnancy. But if it does develop, early treatment is required because the disorder can hurt both mother and baby. The treatment aims to reduce and maintain normal blood glucose levels to those of pregnant women. It includes special meal plans and scheduled physical activity, though pregnancy is not a good time for rigorous exercise.

Therapy may also include daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections. You will need help from your doctor and other members of your health care team so that your treatment for Gestational Diabetes can be modified as needed.

Treatment for Gestational Diabetes helps lower the risk of a cesarean section birth that very large babies may require. While the disorder usually goes away after pregnancy, your chances are 2 in 3 that it will return in future pregnancies. In a few women, however, pregnancy uncovers Type 1 or reversible Pre-Diabetes, which, if left unchecked, can lead to Type 2 Diabetes, a disorder that must be managed throughout your lifetime and may require daily insulin. It is sometimes difficult to diagnose whether these women have Gestational Diabetes or have just started showing their Diabetes symptoms during pregnancy.

Gestational and Type 2 Diabetes – The Link

Excess Weight and Gestational DiabetesAs mentioned, many women who have Gestational Diabetes go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes years later. There appears to be a link between the tendency to have Gestational and to develop Type 2 Diabetes, both which involve Insulin Resistance. This latter condition causes an imbalance in glucose and insulin levels in the blood stream by vastly reducing the number of "doorways" on the cell wall that allow glucose to pass through and be converted into energy. Unused glucose "bounces" off the cell wall and free-floats to the liver where it is converted into fat and stored throughout the body, which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Once Gestational Diabetes has disappeared after giving birth, some basic changes in lifestyle can help prevent the later onset of Insulin Resistance. If neglected, this latter condition may lead to Pre-Diabetes and a severely increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. These lifestyle changes are:
  • Losing weight – if you're 20 percent over your ideal body weight, you're at risk. Losing even a few pounds can help you avoid developing Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Making healthy food choices – follow simple daily guidelines, 5-7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, avoiding refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, bread, bagels, pasta, cookies, crackers, chips, soda and candy), minimizing intake of complex carbs (e.g. brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread) and reducing your portion size. Healthy eating habits can help prevent Type 2 Diabetes and a host of other Insulin-Resistance-related health problems like the cluster of cardiovascular risk factors called Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X) and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance which is a leading form of female infertility. All Insulin Resistance-related conditions increase one's risk for Cardiovascular Disease, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke in both sexes.

  • Exercising – regular exercise allows your body to use glucose without extra insulin. This helps combat Insulin Resistance, a root cause of Pre-Diabetes leading to Type 2 Diabetes. But always check with your doctor before starting an exercise regime. Pregnancy is not a good time to either start or pursue strenuous exercise. The ideal aim should be to lose weight and reach a healthy level through regular exercise before becoming pregnant.
There is no single pill that will reverse excess weight and obesity, just as there are no pharmaceutical drugs that will heal Gestational Diabetes. But there are ways to address Insulin Resistance, which is often the underlying cause of all these conditions.

If you wish to return to optimum health, you should consider a system that combines nutraceuticals (vitamins, herbs and minerals that are disease-specific), a realistic exercise program, nutritional guidance and a support system that will help you change unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Excess weight and obesity are key factors in Gestational Diabetes. The Insulite System for Excess Weight and Obesity promotes weight loss with formulations like InsulX, which is designed to reverse Insulin Resistance by increasing the number of insulin receptor sites on the cell wall.

You may be interested in some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gestational Diabetes and the Insulite System for Weight Gain and Obesity.

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Obesity and Metabolic-Syndrome Articles
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Article by Dr. Sheri Colberg, Phd, FACSM

"The United States is experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Thirty-four percent of adults are overweight and an additional 30% are obese. Thus, 2 of every 3 Americans have an unhealthy body weight. Obesity contributes to over 300,000 deaths per year, principally through its association with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers. Obesity currently is the second leading cause of preventable death and will soon surpass cigarette smoking, the leading cause. Health economists estimate that obesity costs our nation approximately $100 billion a year. And these figures say nothing about the personal suffering of those affected by obesity."
Testimony of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, 9.15.2004 (.PDF)

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