Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? Then, adopting a low GI diet could make your child less likely to become obese or suffer from diabetes later in life, according to researchers from the University of Adelaide’s FOODplus Research Centre.

Previous studies have linked regular consumption of high GI foods during the third trimester of pregnancy to an increased risk of giving birth to a heavy baby with a higher predisposition to childhood obesity.

Study details

“There is a large literature on the benefits of consuming low GI diets in adult humans and, more recently, a series of studies which had reported that low GI diets also had benefits for the metabolic health of pregnant women and could improve neonatal outcomes in their offspring,” reported the lead author, Dr Muhlhausler.

“In this study, we wanted to extend these previous findings to determine whether consuming a lower GI diet during pregnancy could also improve the metabolic health of the children later in life,” she added.

Study findings

Compared to offspring of mothers fed a typical high GI diet, those whose mothers consumed low GI foods showed better glucose tolerance and a lower percentage of abdominal fat.

“The findings of this study indicate that switching to a low GI diet during pregnancy and lactation, i.e. a relatively modest dietary change, has the potential to have lasting benefits for the metabolic health outcomes of the offspring, and reduce their risk of obesity and diabetes later in life,” Dr Muhlhausler explained.

“We are particularly excited about this research because low GI diets have already been shown to be safe for pregnant women, low GI alternatives to most common foods are readily available and previous reports have shown that consumers find low GI diets relatively easy to follow. Thus, if we can get the message out there about the benefits of low GI diets in pregnancy and lactation, we have a real opportunity to improve the health of future generations.”

The researchers will be discussing their results at the 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology.

What’s a low GI diet?

GI stands for ‘glycaemic index’ and refers to the extent to which a particular food raises blood glucose levels after it is eaten. The index is a scale of 0 – 100 using a concentrated sugar solution as the reference. Foods that have a high GI (50 – 100) like refined, sweet and sugary foods are rapidly digested and cause a sharp increase in blood glucose levels.

A low GI diet includes foods, such as certain fruits, wholegrain cereals and unsweetened dairy products that slowly increase blood glucose and insulin levels.

The low GI diet made easy

You don’t need to focus on the individual GI values of all the foods you eat because the overall GI value of a meal is very different from that of the individual foods it’s made of. Plus, some foods like watermelon, parsnip and pumpkin have a high GI value whereas premium ice cream has a low GI (that’s because the large amount of fat it contains slows down its digestion). But unlike ice-cream, fruits and veggies are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.


  • Eat more whole foods: The more a food resembles the original natural ingredients from which it is made, the healthier it is.
  • Eat fewer processed foods: Try to avoid, or at least limit, foods that contains added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  • Keep your portion size in check.

    Alnussairawi et al (2013) Maternal low GI diets improves glucose tolerance and reduces visceral fat mass in female offspring. The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2013. Abstract 84.

    Smith et al (2009) Transient high glycaemic intake in the last trimester of pregnancy increases offspring birthweight and postnatal growth rate in sheep: a randomised control trial. BJOG. 116(7):975-983.