Newly published research in Current Developments in Nutrition confirmed that significant benefits might derive from adhering to the Mediterranean Diet during pregnancy. It also found how such a choice might improve health outcomes in young children of different ethnicities.
According to the study, shifting to the Mediterranean Diet when pregnant may lower the likelihood of the mother developing a depressive mood disorder or pre-pregnancy obesity. Furthermore, the Mediterranean Diet might also curtail obesity in children.
The goal of the project was to investigate how the Mediterranean Diet might impact psychosocial and physiologic stressors associated with pregnancy. These often cause inflammatory conditions that could create future health problems for both mother and child.See Also:Health News
“In particular, a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern has been associated with a number of positive health outcomes, including lower levels of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation and greater longevity,” they wrote.
Researchers explained that approximately one in ten women of reproductive age suffers from depression, with 29 percent of childbearing women being obese. These conditions have been correlated with childhood obesity, child neurodevelopmental issues and chronic disease for both mother and child later in life.
The study involved 929 mother-child dyads from the Newborn Epigenetic Study (NEST), a prospective cohort study. Epigenetics investigates the interaction of gene expressions with a person’s environment and behavior. NEST participants were presented with food frequency questionnaires to assess their dietary habits and the correlation between those habits and health outcomes.
The researchers noted that other studies based on NEST have shown that maternal dietary habits affect offspring behavior for up to 24 months after birth and suggest a link with epigenetic mechanisms.
“We aimed to evaluate the relations between maternal Mediterranean diet adherence (MDA) and maternal and offspring outcomes during the first decade of life in African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites,” the scientists wrote.
“Because racial/ethnic disparities exist in the outcomes of interest, we assessed associations with diet by race,” they added, hinting at the many threads of investigation. The researchers examined incidences of depression, pre-pregnancy obesity, and gestational weight gain in the mothers. Weight at birth and weight gain in young childhood was the data gathered from the children.
Of the 929 dyads, the 341 Black/African American and 225 Hispanic women were on average younger than the 317 White participants. The Black/African American and Hispanic women were also more likely to be obese before pregnancy.
“The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 26 percent overall, and Black/African American women also reported a higher level of depressive symptoms than White and Hispanic women,” the researchers noted in their results.
Approximately 49 percent of the sample gained more weight than recommended during pregnancy.
Still, researchers found that adhering to a Mediterranean Diet was associated with a lower risk of pre-pregnancy obesity, even if it did not appear to impact gestational weight gain. Among the different ethnicities, Hispanic women enjoyed the most protective effect of the Mediterranean Diet against depression. For all women, better adherence to the Mediterranean Diet translated into improved results.
The study’s authors noted that their results showed positive associations between adhering to the Mediterranean Diet from conception and lower pre-pregnancy weight, lower depression and improved weight-to-height outcomes in children between three and eight years of age. However, such effects vary considerably among the ethnicities involved.
“These data support European clinical trials data suggesting that Mediterranean-style diet is perhaps a potent avenue for preventing adverse maternal and offspring prenatal and early postnatal outcomes, including prenatal depressive mood and childhood obesity, which disproportionately affect Blacks/African Americans. In our study, MDA differed starkly by race/ethnicity, with non-Hispanic White mothers reporting the highest MDA and non-Hispanic Black mothers reporting the lowest MDA. The stark differences in MDA by race/ethnicity showcase the need for interventions to support healthy eating among populations of color in the United States,” the researchers wrote.
In their conclusion, the scientists wrote how adhering to a Mediterranean Diet from the earliest stages of pregnancy “appears to convey psychosocial and physiologic health benefits to mothers and their unborn children, although racial/ethnic disparities exist in dietary intake. The racial/ethnic disparities seen in diet pattern are rooted in inequities related to the social determinants of health.” They also called for more extensive studies covering wider, more heterogeneous samples of the population.
“Given the many benefits of adherence to a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern, interventions addressing these issues, in addition to studies of mechanism and racial/ethnic differences in outcomes, are needed,” they concluded.