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Lifestyle modification, following gestational diabetes, reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, over the next 10 years, by over 35%. The study also showed that metformin, was also effective at lowering diabetes risk over the follow up period.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a form of diabetes that comes on during pregnancy and usually disappears after pregnancy is over. Gestational diabetes shares a number of risk factors in common with type 2 diabetes and having had gestational diabetes is a significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that gestational diabetes occurs in up to 9.2% of pregnancies.

The study reviewed 350 women who had developed gestational diabetes and a further 1,416 women who had been pregnant but not developed gestational diabetes. The women were assigned to one of three groups: intensive lifestyle group, metformin group and placebo group. The intensive lifestyle intervention involved taking part in 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per week which aimed to reduce body weight by 7 per cent.

35% lower risk of diabetes

The results of the study showed that the intensive lifestyle intervention conferred a 35% lower risk of type 2 diabetes developing over the 10 year follow up period compared with placebo.

Metformin was shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40%, although it is important to note that, as metformin actively lowers blood glucose levels, taking the drug has the effect of shifting the boundaries, to some degree, of the point at which type 2 diabetes is diagnosed.

However, whilst intensive lifestyle modification reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 30%, in women that had not had gestational diabetes, metformin showed no reduction in the risk of developing diabetes.

Preventing diabetes after GDM

The study shows that intensive lifestyle shows significant ability to reduce the likelihood of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes after having had gestational diabetes. Intensive lifestyle modification also brings on additional health benefits without the gastrointestinal side effects that metformin can have.