Study aiming to achieve body balance after gestational diabetes
Following a 200% incidence rise in gestational diabetes over the past five years in the Hunter Region, nutrition researchers from the University of Newcastle are trialing a new diabetes risk-reduction program called Body Balance Beyond.
By partnering with John Hunter Hospital endocrinologist Dr Katie Wynne and recruiting mothers who have recently had gestational diabetes, the study aims to help women avoid a recurrence of the condition in subsequent pregnancies or prevent the onset of Type-2 diabetes.
“This year over 500 women developed gestational diabetes in our region,” chief investigator Professor Clare Collins says. “It means these women have a seven-times higher risk of developing Type-2 diabetes within the next five to 10 years, and their children are also more likely to develop the disease.
“While women with gestational diabetes are generally well supported during their pregnancy, once they have their baby there are no prevention programs designed specifically for them.”
According to study co-ordinator Dr Megan Rollo, many women find it difficult to monitor their own wellbeing as they adjust to motherhood, so it’s an ideal time to provide assistance.
“Caring for a new baby can be hectic and tiring, with mums often juggling multiple commitments while also having to look after their own health,” Dr Rollo says. “But because they’re not seen as having a chronic medical condition, they are often a forgotten group.
“Our study is tailored to the unique characteristics these women have. It’s a lifestyle program delivered with online technologies this age group already use, which aims to achieve a modest weight-loss by focusing on personalised support to improve nutrition and physical activity levels.”
Trial participants will be randomised into three groups.
The high-personalisation group gets access to a dedicated website along with one-on-one consultations with both a dietitian and exercise physiologist. These are delivered by video calls in the first three months, so there is no need to travel to appointments. The women then receive personalised texts as reminders of their individual weight-loss goals.
“We tailor the messages to factors that the women identify as affecting their ability to eat healthily and exercise regularly. That could include getting recipes or accessing healthy foods,” Dr Rollo adds. “We want to introduce incremental changes they can adopt and maintain long-term.”
A lesser degree of personalisation will be offered to the second group. While gaining feedback on diet and exercise, their usage of the web-based materials will be self-directed. The control arm will wait until the trial’s completion before receiving the high-intensity resources.
The study, funded by Diabetes Australia and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, is now recruiting 90 mums. It runs for six months, then participants will also be followed up with questionnaires over the following two years.
* HMRI partners with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.