It seems like just yesterday I was posting that there was little to no info about the causes of Gestational Diabetes. Today, it seems like there may be a tiny bit more. A new study shows that women with Gestational Diabetes have lower levels of the chemical Serotonin. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an amino acid found in high protein foods.
So does this mean that women who eat more protein in the first trimester are less likely to get Gestational Diabetes?
The study shows what is described as “a clear link between the amount and type of protein consumed by the mother early in pregnancy and the generation of islet cells needed to protect her against gestational diabetes late in pregnancy”.
Serotonin is usually classified as a neurotransmitter, known to affect mood and appetite, among other things. The most popular class of anti-depressant drugs, SSRIs, act upon serotonin receptors to allow a greater flow of serotonin in the system, which has a mood-enhancing effect. But it seems like serotonin may control more than how we feel. The findings were a total surprise, and will surely inspire more research.
Interestingly, early pregnancy nausea often makes protein rich foods less attractive than carbohydrates. But before you start looking back over your early pregnancy diet of mashed potatoes and white bread with remorse, realize that these findings were in mice, not in humans. And though we don’t know yet how this might translate to people, clearly, the ratio of women who can’t stomach protein in early pregnancy to women who later get gestational diabetes is not exactly one to one. (I can personally attest to that!)
The most exciting thing about this study, aside from the fact that it’s the first one to even correlate Gestational Diabetes to anything at all, is that it implies that prevention could be as easy as changing your pregnancy diet. Then it would just be a matter of finding high tryptophan foods that don’t make you want to barf.