Infant birth weight has increased in Ireland in recent years along with levels of childhood overweight and obesity. The present article reviews the current literature on maternal glycaemia and the role of the dietary glycaemic index (GI) and its impact on pregnancy outcomes. It is known that maternal weight and weight gain significantly influence infant birth weight. Fetal macrosomia (birth weight >4000 g) is associated with an increased risk of perinatal trauma to both mother and infant. Furthermore, macrosomic infants have greater risk of being obese in childhood, adolescence and adulthood compared to normal-sized infants. There is evidence that there is a direct relationship between maternal blood glucose levels during pregnancy and fetal growth and size at birth, even when maternal blood glucose levels are within their normal range. Thus, maintaining blood glucose concentrations within normal parameters during pregnancy may reduce the incidence of fetal macrosomia. Maternal diet, and particularly its carbohydrate (CHO) type and content, influences maternal blood glucose concentrations. However, different CHO foods produce different glycaemic responses. The GI was conceived by Jenkins in 1981 as a method for assessing the glycaemic responses of different CHO. Data from clinical studies in healthy pregnant women have documented that consuming a low-GI diet during pregnancy reduces peaks in postprandial glucose levels and normalises infant birth weight. Pregnancy is a physiological condition where the GI may be of particular relevance as glucose is the primary fuel for fetal growth.
(Received July 27 2009)
(Revised January 20 2010)
(Accepted January 22 2010)
(Online publication March 23 2010)
Abbreviations: CHO, carbohydrates; DM, diabetes mellitus; GI, glycaemic index; GL, glycaemic load; LGA, large-for-gestational-age infant