Different types of dietary advice for women with gestational diabetes mellitus

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Feb 25;2(2):CD009275. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009275.pub3.


Background: Dietary advice is the main strategy for managing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). It remains unclear what type of advice is best.

Objectives: To assess the effects of different types of dietary advice for women with GDM for improving health outcomes for women and babies.

Search methods: We searched Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth's Trials Register (8 March 2016), PSANZ's Trials Registry (22 March 2016) and reference lists of retrieved studies.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials comparing the effects of different types of dietary advice for women with GDM.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed study eligibility, risk of bias, and extracted data. Evidence quality for two comparisons was assessed using GRADE, for primary outcomes for the mother: hypertensive disorders of pregnancy; caesarean section; type 2 diabetes mellitus; and child: large-for-gestational age; perinatal mortality; neonatal mortality or morbidity composite; neurosensory disability; secondary outcomes for the mother: induction of labour; perineal trauma; postnatal depression; postnatal weight retention or return to pre-pregnancy weight; and child: hypoglycaemia; childhood/adulthood adiposity; childhood/adulthood type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Main results: In this update, we included 19 trials randomising 1398 women with GDM, at an overall unclear to moderate risk of bias (10 comparisons). For outcomes assessed using GRADE, downgrading was based on study limitations, imprecision and inconsistency. Where no findings are reported below for primary outcomes or pre-specified GRADE outcomes, no data were provided by included trials. Primary outcomes Low-moderate glycaemic index (GI) versus moderate-high GI diet (four trials): no clear differences observed for: large-for-gestational age (risk ratio (RR) 0.71, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.22 to 2.34; two trials, 89 infants; low-quality evidence); severe hypertension or pre-eclampsia (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.07 to 15.86; one trial, 95 women; very low-quality evidence); eclampsia (RR 0.34, 95% CI 0.01 to 8.14; one trial, 83 women; very low-quality evidence) or caesarean section (RR 0.66, 95% CI 0.29 to 1.47; one trial, 63 women; low-quality evidence). Energy-restricted versus no energy-restricted diet (three trials): no clear differences seen for: large-for-gestational age (RR 1.17, 95% CI 0.65 to 2.12; one trial, 123 infants; low-quality evidence); perinatal mortality (no events; two trials, 423 infants; low-quality evidence); pre-eclampsia (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.51 to 1.97; one trial, 117 women; low-quality evidence); or caesarean section (RR 1.12, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.56; two trials, 420 women; low-quality evidence). DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet versus control diet (three trials): no clear differences observed for: pre-eclampsia (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.31 to 3.26; three trials, 136 women); however there were fewer caesarean sections in the DASH diet group (RR 0.53, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.76; two trials, 86 women). Low-carbohydrate versus high-carbohydrate diet (two trials): no clear differences seen for: large-for-gestational age (RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.13 to 1.95; one trial, 149 infants); perinatal mortality (RR 3.00, 95% CI 0.12 to 72.49; one trial, 150 infants); maternal hypertension (RR 0.40, 95% CI 0.13 to 1.22; one trial, 150 women); or caesarean section (RR 1.29, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.99; two trials, 179 women). High unsaturated fat versus low unsaturated fat diet (two trials): no clear differences observed for: large-for-gestational age (RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.21 to 1.37; one trial, 27 infants); pre-eclampsia (no cases; one trial, 27 women); hypertension in pregnancy (RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.06 to 5.26; one trial, 27 women); caesarean section (RR 1.08, 95% CI 0.07 to 15.50; one trial, 27 women); diabetes at one to two weeks (RR 2.00, 95% CI 0.45 to 8.94; one trial, 24 women) or four to 13 months postpartum (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.10 to 9.61; one trial, six women). Low-GI versus high-fibre moderate-GI diet (one trial): no clear differences seen for: large-for-gestational age (RR 2.87, 95% CI 0.61 to 13.50; 92 infants); caesarean section (RR 1.91, 95% CI 0.91 to 4.03; 92 women); or type 2 diabetes at three months postpartum (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.11 to 5.01; 58 women). Diet recommendation plus diet-related behavioural advice versus diet recommendation only (one trial): no clear differences observed for: large-for-gestational age (RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.25 to 2.14; 99 infants); or caesarean section (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.38 to 1.62; 99 women). Soy protein-enriched versus no soy protein diet (one trial): no clear differences seen for: pre-eclampsia (RR 2.00, 95% CI 0.19 to 21.03; 68 women); or caesarean section (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.77; 68 women). High-fibre versus standard-fibre diet (one trial): no primary outcomes reported. Ethnic-specific versus standard healthy diet (one trial): no clear differences observed for: large-for-gestational age (RR 0.14, 95% CI 0.01 to 2.45; 20 infants); neonatal composite adverse outcome (no events; 20 infants); gestational hypertension (RR 0.33, 95% CI 0.02 to 7.32; 20 women); or caesarean birth (RR 1.20, 95% CI 0.54 to 2.67; 20 women). Secondary outcomes For secondary outcomes assessed using GRADE no differences were observed: between a low-moderate and moderate-high GI diet for induction of labour (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.33 to 2.34; one trial, 63 women; low-quality evidence); or an energy-restricted and no energy-restricted diet for induction of labour (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.68 to 1.53; one trial, 114 women, low-quality evidence) and neonatal hypoglycaemia (average RR 1.06, 95% CI 0.48 to 2.32; two trials, 408 infants; very low-quality evidence).Few other clear differences were observed for reported outcomes. Longer-term health outcomes and health services use and costs were largely not reported.

Authors' conclusions: Evidence from 19 trials assessing different types of dietary advice for women with GDM suggests no clear differences for primary outcomes and secondary outcomes assessed using GRADE, except for a possible reduction in caesarean section for women receiving a DASH diet compared with a control diet. Few differences were observed for secondary outcomes.Current evidence is limited by the small number of trials in each comparison, small sample sizes, and variable methodological quality. More evidence is needed to assess the effects of different types of dietary advice for women with GDM. Future trials should be adequately powered to evaluate short- and long-term outcomes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Caloric Restriction
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Diabetes, Gestational / diet therapy*
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted
  • Diet, Diabetic
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / epidemiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fiber