Jelly Beans as a Test?

This is my second pregnancy and I am scheduled to take a glucose tolerance test next week. The midwife that I am seeing said it was fine to eat 15 jelly beans instead of drinking the orange beverage before the test. Could the results be accurate?


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

In a study published in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology," results for a sample of women showed that the consumption of a specific number of a specific kind of jelly bean may be used as a screening test for gestational diabetes.

The 50 gm oral glucose tolerance test (GTT) is typically administered as a thick sugary-sweet liquid. Well-known side effects from this cola or orange beverage include nausea, vomiting, sweating, abdominal pain, and even bloating. Patient noncompliance with this test or vomiting are as high as 10 to 15 percent. Therefore, some patients are not adequately screened for the potentially serious disorder of gestational diabetes. Jelly beans were used as an alternative to the 50 gm GTT with a cola beverage.

This is how the study was conducted. Each woman had all three tests: jelly bean, glucola and three-hour glucose tolerance test. In this way, they all acted as their own controls.

Each was asked to consume 18 jelly beans within two minutes and a one-hour venous plasma glucose value was obtained. This test was done without regard to the time of the last meal. Jelly beans (Brach & Brock Confections, Chicago) with a count of 150 per pound were used. Food and Drug Administration quality control standards for nutrition labeling and internal quality-control standards by Brach & Brock Confections regulate the size and dextrose or carbohydrate content of each jelly bean.

Only Food and Drug Administration-approved dyes are used by Brach & Brock Confections in the manufacture of jelly beans.

It is of importance to note that only Brach jelly beans with a count of 150 per pound were tested. Other brands of jelly beans may not yield the same result.

Overwhelmingly, jelly beans were preferred to the cola beverage in this study. However, this may in part reflect bias on the part of the subjects who voluntarily participated in the study. This study, with its limited number of subjects, suggests that jelly beans may be used as a well-tolerated and acceptable alternative to a cola beverage containing 50 gm of glucose for screening of gestational diabetes.

A different threshold must be used with jelly beans, however. Instead of the typical 134 to 140 mg/dl, a 120 mg/dl threshold must be used. This means that if your one-hour glucose is above 120 mg/dl, a three-hour test must be recommended.

The number of jelly beans is 18, not 15.

So, let us know if you liked this approach.

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