Up until now I’ve merely glanced at the FoodBabe’s unscientific mumbo jumbo and chemically implausible claims about a variety of “toxins” in foods, but now I hear she has her sights sets on the Glucola.
For those of your who don’t know the Glucola is the common name used for the sugary drink that doctors and midwives and nurse practitioners give their pregnant patients to screen for diabetes. Screening for diabetes in pregnancy is recommended as high blood sugar is associated with a number of bad outcomes for both baby and mother. Am affected baby can have dangerously low blood sugar at birth, has a greater risk of needing care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and babies with gestational diabetes can be too large to deliver vaginally. This leads to more c-sections and sometimes if a vaginal delivery is attempted and the baby is too large it can get stuck with its head out of the vagina but shoulders trapped underneath the pubic bone. This is called a shoulder dystocia and is a true obstetrical emergency as the baby is without oxygen for most of the time it is stuck. There is also concern that exposure to elevated glucose levels during pregnancy could lead a higher risk of obesity and diabetes for the baby later in life. Mothers with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially very serious and even life threatening condition involving high-blood pressure in pregnancy. Furthermore (if all that were not enough) women with GDM have a 60% risk of developing type 2 DM later in life.
The Glucola. It tastes nasty, no getting around that, but that’s not because of some harmful ingredient but because it has so much sugar. We use the Glucola to test for diabetes because we need to know the response to an exact amount of sugar with a predictable absorption.
The Glucola contains chemicals because everything that we ingest is a chemical. Chemicals are not bad. Dihydrogen oxide is a chemical, but that doesn’t make it scary it just makes it water.
The FoodBabe is worried about the Glucola. I received some tweets about it today, but she’s apparently been on the case of Big -Glucola (and the doctors who dangerously recommend this shocking drink!) for a while. One of her biggest concerns is brominated vegetable oil. There is a nice review of the science at snopes.com. Basically, you would have to chronically consume 2-8 liters of soda with brominated vegetable oil a day to even be at risk for an issue (even with that excessive consumption we are only talking about two documented cases of health concerns). A woman should be no more worried about toxic effects of Glucola then a can of Coke during her pregnancy.
But we don’t need to be concerned about the Glucola’s “toxicity” because it has been extensively tested. I think it is fair to say that no other substance consumed by pregnant women has been better tested. Thousands and thousands of women have taken it in highly monitored clinical trials that were specifically designed to look at outcomes for both mom and baby. There are a few reviews here and here and there is simply no evidence anywhere to support any kind of health problem apart from the unpleasantness of the taste and temporary nausea, headache and sweating experienced by some women (due to the rapid sugar load).
But the lack of science doesn’t stop the FoodBabe. After raising her spurious claims, even though she is not a doctor or midwife or nurse, she offers potentially dangerous medical advice on her website, such as
An even better option that you can discuss with your doctor would be to avoid the test altogether and monitor your blood sugar with a glucometer throughout your pregnancy, as recommended here, here and here. This is the best alternative because you won’t create an extreme blood sugar spike, and can stick to your regular healthy diet.
Her methods are not recommended by doctors as they have been tested and failed to identify a large proportion of women who have gestational diabetes.
She also links to a woman who recommends a banana (completely untested) and Jelly Bean studies. It is true researchers did look at Jelly Beans (not to avoid toxins, but to make the test cheaper on more palatable). A couple of older very small studies suggested that this might be a strategy, but these studies are under powered to say jelly beans are an effective screening tool for gestational diabetes.
Alternative methods of screening for gestational diabetes have actually been the subject of a Cochrane review. The only two non-Glucola like studies to pass muster for review included a study of a candy bar (82 women) and another adding glucose to food (30 women). These studies were insufficient to draw any kind of meaningful conclusions and if a doctor were to recommend unproved, “alternative” methods of testing for gestational diabetes and a patient had her diabetes missed and then had a bad outcome that doctor would be guilty of malpractice.
We have thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of women taking the Glucola in pregnancy with follow-up in rigorous clinical trials and not one documented medical risk has appeared from the drink. Add to that the only risk of brominated vegetable oil appears to have happened to two people who consumed liters of soda daily.
Would it be nice if there were a better tasting Glucola? Sure, but given the sugar load, the precision required, and the nausea-prone pregnant digestive system I have no idea what that might be.
The FoodBabe offers zero science to back up her claims that doctors are trying to poison pregnant women and babies all the while offering potentially dangerous medical advice.
The Glucola isn’t toxic, but the FoodBabe’s advice might be.