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14 Oct 2014

Devouring a bucket of chips at lunchtime or scoffing fried chicken wings is not only bad for the waistline, but can increase the risk of gestational diabetes in pregnant women.

Women who regularly eat fried food before conceiving have a greater chance of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, according to a study published in the journal Diabetologia.

While it is well established that frequent consumption of fried food increases the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese, researchers are only now beginning to investigate many other possible health effects.

Researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development used data tracking the health and behaviour of 15,027 women who had 21,079 pregnancies, including diet information such as the consumption of fried food.

They found that, after adjusting for age, body mass index, and other dietary and non-dietary factors, women who at fried foods four or more times a week were at noticeably greater risk of gestational diabetes (GDM) while pregnant. The risk was particularly acute for those who tucked into fried food seven or more times a week – they were 88 per cent more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who at fired food less than once a week.

“The potential detrimental effects of fried food consumption on GDM risk may result from the modification of foods and frying medium and generation of harmful by-products during the frying process,” the authors of the study, Dr Cuilin Zhang and Dr Wei Bao, wrote. “Frying deteriorates oils through the processes of oxidation and hydrogenation, leading to an increase in the absorption of oil degradation products by the foods being fried, and also a loss of unsaturated fatty acids…and an increase in the corresponding trans fatty acids.”

They added that frying also dramatically increased the presence of advanced glycation end products, which have been implicated in insulin resistance, pancreatic beta-cell damage and diabetes.

In a significant discovery, the researchers found that the increased risk of developing GDM was associated with eating fried foods cooked commercially, rather than at home.

They speculated that this was likely due to the fact that commercial kitchens commonly re-used cooking oil for frying their food.

Overall, the researchers said, “we observed that frequent fried food consumption was significantly and positively associated with the risk of incident GDM. Our study indicates potential benefits of limiting fried food consumption in the prevention of GDM in women of reproductive age”.

Adrian Rollins

Published: 14 Oct 2014