Letters Pre-pregnancy potato consumption and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus

Sweet potato as an alternative to potato in gestational diabetes mellitus

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i975 (Published 23 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i975
  1. Arun Sharma, junior resident (pharmacology)1,
  2. M Thulasimani, associate professor (pharmacology)1
  1. 1Sri Lakshmi Narayana Institute of Medical Sciences (SLIMS), Puducherry 605502, India
  1. drarun86md{at}gmail.com

Bao and colleagues recently found that consumption of higher levels of potato before pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes, and they suggested substituting potatoes with other vegetables or whole grains to lower this risk.1 We suggest that sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam) could be eaten instead of potato. Often categorised as “poor man’s food,” the nutritional value of sweet potato is about 50% higher than potato and it can therefore be consumed in moderation, unlike potato.2 Because of their name, and the fact that sweet potatoes taste sweet, the prevailing myth is that they should be avoided by patients with diabetes even though they have a lower glycaemic index than ordinary potatoes. Sweet potatoes have almost double the fibre content of potatoes and four times more calcium,3 making them even more useful for pregnant women with diabetes, as pregnant women often have constipation and take calcium supplements for fetal and maternal wellbeing. Sweet potatoes also have an anti-hypertensive effect, which might be beneficial in pregnant women, especially those with gestational diabetes, as they are more prone to developing hypertension.4

Studies have shown that sweet potatoes have anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant, and anti-proliferative properties and can raise blood levels of adiponectin, which helps to regulate insulin metabolism.5 6 In view of these findings, we think that sweet potatoes are underutilised in the management of diabetes and should be used as an alternative to potatoes in pregnant women with diabetes and the general population of people with diabetes. Large scale studies of sweet potatoes in gestational diabetes would be very useful.

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