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Diet is consistently associated with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) risk in white European women, but not in other ethnic populations, according to a meta-analysis published in PLOS Global Public Health.

Harriett Fuller, from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to examine the effects of unhealthy and healthy diets on GDM risk within distinct ethnic or cultural populations and geographic regions.

The researchers identified 38 studies with information on five population groups: white European (WE), Asian, Iranian, Mediterranean, and Australian. There were no associations observed between healthy diets and GDM incidence in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in any population. In WE women, healthy diets reduced odds of GDM by 23 percent, while unhealthy diets increased odds of GDM by 61 percent. However, there were no consistent effects seen in other populations, even when adequately powered.

“Heterogenous use and reporting of ethnically and culturally appropriate diets and dietary assessment tools, particularly in RCTs, raises uncertainty regarding the lack of association found in non-WE populations,” the authors write. “Future studies require the use of culturally appropriate tools to confidently evaluate dietary and metabolic mediators of GDM and inform culturally-specific dietary prevention strategies.”

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