(HealthDay News) – Higher consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), according to research published online Feb. 1 in Diabetes Care.

To examine the association between dietary protein and GDM, Wei Bao, MD, PhD, from the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, MD, and colleagues analyzed data from 21,457 singleton pregnancies reported among 15,294 participants of the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort (1991–2001). Pregnancies included in the analysis were free of chronic diseases before pregnancy or previous GDM.

The researchers found that, comparing the highest with lowest quintiles, the relative risks for GDM were significantly increased for animal protein intake (1.49) and significantly reduced for vegetable protein intake (0.69), after adjustment for other variables, including age, parity, non-dietary and dietary factors, and body mass index. The risk of GDM was reduced significantly, by 51% , with the substitution of 5% of energy from vegetable protein for animal protein. Comparing the highest with the lowest quintiles, the multivariable relative risk for GDM was 2.05 for total red meat and 0.73 for nuts. The risk of GDM was significantly lower with substitution of red meat with poultry, fish, nuts, or legumes.

“Our findings indicate that pre-pregnancy intake of animal protein, in particular red meat, is significantly and positively associated with GDM risk, whereas consumption of vegetable protein, specifically nuts, is inversely associated with the risk,” the authors write.

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