Individuals who are genetically at risk of developing gestational diabetes can prevent a diagnosis by adopting a healthy lifestyle, academics have claimed.

Scientists from the University of Helsinki have created a genetic-risk score to detect which individuals are at risk of developing gestational and postpartum diabetes.

Those with a higher score are more likely to benefit from dietary counselling and healthier lifestyle changes, according to the research.

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth.

The condition develops when a women’s body cannot produce enough insulin to meet their extra needs in pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes can cause problems for the mother and baby during pregnancy and after birth, however the risks can be reduced if the condition is identified early and well managed.

During the study, the team of academics examined whether lifestyle changes combatted gestational diabetes in women more at risk of developing the condition.

They analysed whether the participants had certain gene variants that are known to trigger the development of type 2 diabetes.

As part of the trial, each participant took part in a physical activity programme and received nutritional counselling throughout their pregnancy and for a year after birth.

Emilia Huvinen, specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, said: “Gestational diabetes as well as prediabetes and diabetes one year after delivery were also more common among those with higher scores.”

“Based on our research, intensified lifestyle interventions benefitted only women at highest genetic risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

She added: “Our study offers one possible explanation for the contradictory results of previous studies investigating the prevention of gestational diabetes ‘til now.”

“It’s important to realise that in the case of diabetes, our genetic background does not determine our future.”

She concluded: “With the help of a healthy lifestyle, you can reverse the effect of a high genetic diabetes risk.”

The research was published in the journal Diabetologia.

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