Prepregnancy plant-based diets and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: a prospective cohort study of 14,926 women

Year Published: 2021


Am J Clin Nutr


Zhangling Chen, Frank Qian, Gang Liu, Mengying Li, Trudy Voortman, Deirdre K Tobias, Sylvia H Ley, Shilpa N Bhupathiraju, Ling-Jun Li, Jorge E Chavarro


Background Emerging evidence suggests beneficial impacts of plant-based diets on glucose metabolism among generally healthy individuals. Whether adherence to these diets is related to risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is unknown. Objectives We aimed to examine associations between plant-based diets and GDM in a large prospective study. Methods We included 14,926 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991–2001), who reported ≥1 singleton pregnancy and without previous GDM before the index pregnancy. Prepregnancy adherence to plant-based diets was measured by an overall plant-based diet index (PDI), healthful plant-based diet index (hPDI), and unhealthful plant-based diet index (uPDI) as assessed by FFQs every 4 y. Incident first-time GDM was ascertained from a self-reported physician diagnosis, which was previously validated by review of medical records. We used log-binomial models with generalized estimating equations to calculate RRs and 95% CIs for associations of PDIs with GDM.

Key Findings

Key Findings: Results We documented 846 incident GDM cases over the 10-y follow-up among 20,707 pregnancies. Greater adherence to the PDI and hPDI was associated with lower GDM risk. For the PDI, the multivariable-adjusted RR (95% CI) comparing the highest and lowest quintiles (Q5 compared with Q1) was 0.70 (0.56, 0.87) (Ptrend = 0.0004), and for each 10-point increment was 0.80 (0.71, 0.90). For the hPDI, the RR (95% CI) of Q5 compared with Q1 was 0.75 (0.59, 0.94) (Ptrend = 0.009) and for each 10-point increment was 0.86 (0.77, 0.95). After further adjustment for prepregnancy BMI, the associations were attenuated but remained significant: for the PDI, the RR (95% CI) for each 10-point increment was 0.89 (0.79, 1.00) and the corresponding RR (95% CI) was 0.89 (0.80, 0.99) for the hPDI. The uPDI was not associated with GDM. Conclusions Our study suggests that greater prepregnancy adherence to a healthful plant-based diet was associated with lower risk of GDM, whereas an unhealthful plant-based diet was not related to GDM risk.