Purpose: We assessed the association of total meat, processed, and unprocessed red meat and iron intake with the risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in pregnant women.
Methods: We conducted a prospective study among 3298 disease-free Spanish women participants of the SUN cohort who reported at least one pregnancy between December 1999 and March 2012. Meat consumption and iron intake were assessed at baseline through a validated, 136-item semi-quantitative, food frequency questionnaire. We categorized total, red, and processed meat consumption and iron intake into quartiles. Logistic regression models were used to adjust for potential confounders.
Results: We identified 172 incident cases of GDM. In the fully adjusted analysis, total meat consumption was significantly associated with a higher risk of GDM [OR = 1.67 (95% CI 1.06-2.63, p-trend 0.010)] for the highest versus the lowest quartile of consumption. The observed associations were particularly strong for red meat consumption [OR = 2.37 (95% CI 1.49-3.78, p-trend < 0.001)] and processed meat consumption [OR = 2.01 (95% CI 1.26-3.21, p-trend 0.003)]. Heme iron intake was also directly associated with GDM [OR = 2.21 (95% CI 1.37-3.58, p-trend 0.003)], although the association was attenuated and lost its statistical significance when we adjusted for red meat consumption [OR = 1.57 (95% CI 0.91-2.70, p-trend 0.213)]. No association was observed for non-heme and total iron intake, including supplements.
Conclusions: Our overall findings suggest that higher pre-pregnancy consumption of total meat, especially red and processed meat, and heme iron intake, are significantly associated with an increased GDM risk in a Mediterranean cohort of university graduates.
Keywords: Gestational diabetes mellitus; Heme iron intake; Mediterranean population; Red and processed meat; Total meat.