Can a low-glycemic index diet reduce the need for insulin in gestational diabetes mellitus? A randomized trial

Diabetes Care. 2009 Jun;32(6):996-1000. doi: 10.2337/dc09-0007. Epub 2009 Mar 11.


Objective: A low-glycemic index diet is effective as a treatment for individuals with diabetes and has been shown to improve pregnancy outcomes when used from the first trimester. A low-glycemic index diet is commonly advised as treatment for women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). However, the efficacy of this advice and associated pregnancy outcomes have not been systematically examined. The purpose of this study was to determine whether prescribing a low-glycemic index diet for women with GDM could reduce the number of women requiring insulin without compromise of pregnancy outcomes.

Research design and methods: All women with GDM seen over a 12-month period were considered for inclusion in the study. Women (n = 63) were randomly assigned to receive either a low-glycemic index diet or a conventional high-fiber (and higher glycemic index) diet.

Results: Of the 31 women randomly assigned to a low-glycemic index diet, 9 (29%) required insulin. Of the women randomly assigned to a higher-glycemic index diet, a significantly higher proportion, 19 of 32 (59%), met the criteria to commence insulin treatment (P = 0.023). However, 9 of these 19 women were able to avoid insulin use by changing to a low-glycemic index diet. Key obstetric and fetal outcomes were not significantly different.

Conclusions: Using a low-glycemic index diet for women with GDM effectively halved the number needing to use insulin, with no compromise of obstetric or fetal outcomes.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Diabetes, Gestational / blood*
  • Diabetes, Gestational / drug therapy
  • Diet Records
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Patient Selection
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Safety
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin