News Roundup: Potatoes Linked to Diabetes During Pregnancy, Warning Labels on Soda, Age of First-Time Moms Reaches Record High

There may be a link between eating potatoes before pregnancy and gestational diabetes, according to a new study published about in the BMJ,  formerly known as the British Medical Journal. Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman develops elevated blood sugar during pregnancy and the condition can create health risks for the mother and baby.

“Substitution of two servings a week of total potatoes with other vegetables, legumes, and whole grain foods was significantly associated with a 9-12 percent lower risk of [gestational diabetes],” according to the authors of the study.

The study was led by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Harvard University, who tracked 15,000 women during a 10-year period. Study participants had a medical history that was free of chronic diseases or gestational diabetes.  During the decade-long study period, there were 21,693 pregnancies and 854 cases of gestational diabetes among the participants. Women who had consumed higher amounts of potatoes before pregnancy had greater chances of developing gestational diabetes, the researchers said. The results were adjusted for age and other factors.  Race was not a factor: Nearly all of the subjects – more than 90 percent — were Caucasian, according to the report.

The debate over the health value of potatoes has been ongoing. On the one hand,  potatoes  are a rich source of  nutrients such as vitamin C, fiber, phytochemicals and potassium.  However, “unlike other vegetables they can have detrimental effects on glucose metabolism because they contain large amounts of rapidly absorbable starch,” the study says about potatoes. Other studies have linked high levels of potato consumption to  insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar levels and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

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–Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

Sugar Warning Labels Have Clout with Parent

Warning labels on sugary drinks carry weight with parents. That’s the verdict from a recent study published in the February 2016 issue of Pediatrics, a medical  journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Health warning labels on SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] improved parents’ understanding of health harms associated with over-consumption of such beverages and may reduce parents’ purchase of SSBs for their children,” according to the study, which was led by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

The topic is timely; state and municipal lawmakers from different regions are pushing for health warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages. Proposed warning labels would resemble the health warnings that appear on tobacco products. Health alerts on sugary drinks would warn that drinking sweet beverages raises the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

Such warnings would carry clout with parents, according to the new study in Pediatrics. The research team surveyed 2,381 parents — mostly women — online. Apart from gender, the group was very diverse. Study participants were divided into several different groups and were shown different versions of sweet drinks, including beverages with:

  • No warning: A control group were shown no labels on sweet beverages.
  • Labels with calorie information: One group viewed labels with calorie facts, but no other health info.
  • Health warnings: Parents viewed labels detailing the various health risks associated with sweet drinks.

After viewing the labels, parents were asked to pick a drink from an online app that looked like a vending machine. Those who viewed the calorie-only label picked sweet drinks as much as parents in the control group who did not see any label. But parents who were viewed the warning labels were 20 percent less likely to select a sugary drink when asked to pick a drink for their child from the simulated vending machine.

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–Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

Age of First-time Moms Reaches Record High

For the last 45 years, the U.S. government has tracked the average age of when women become first-time mothers, and the latest research conducted from 2000 to 2014 shows it at an all-time high. The average age of first-time mothers in the U.S. is now 26 years and 4 months – an increase of 1.4 years during the five-year research period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2000, the average age was 24.9 years. The most significant increase took place between 2009 and 2014, rising from 25.2 years to 26.3 years in 2014, said the report’s lead author T.J. Mathews. The age increase took place in every U.S. state and across all racial and ethnic groups.

According to the report, the increasing age of first-time moms can be attributed to:

  • Less young moms – due to a drop in teenage pregnancies
  • More older moms – an increasing number of women having their first babies after age 30. A delay in starting a family is often the result of working women wanting to establish a solid career before having children.

The District of Columbia had the highest average-age increase of more than three years. California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, and Arkansas followed with an average increase of 1.7 years. Florida experienced a 1.5- to 1.6-year rise in the average age of first-time moms.

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–Tanya Racoobian Walton

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