Mediterranean Diet May Help Protect Newborns from Leading Cause of Mortality, Study Suggests

Pregnant women at risk of the Small for Gestational Age condition were less likely to have newborns suffer from the condition after following the Mediterranean diet.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Dec. 16, 2021 08:41 UTC

According to a new study, fol­low­ing a Mediterranean diet might help cur­tail one of the most com­mon health prob­lems affect­ing new­borns.

Small for Gestational Age (SGA) is a con­di­tion that affects 27 per­cent of all births glob­ally and can lead to breath­ing and oxy­gena­tion prob­lems for new­borns and fur­ther health prob­lems as they become adults.

The new research pub­lished in the Journal of the American Medical Association focused on the effects of fol­low­ing the Mediterranean diet and the adop­tion of mind­ful­ness-based stress reduc­tion tech­niques on preg­nant women. Both were com­pared to usual care.

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Researchers ana­lyzed a sam­ple of more than 1,200 women with sin­gle­ton preg­nan­cies at high SGA risk. Scientists work­ing in the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona divided the sam­ple into three groups.

The first one – focused on the Mediterranean diet – received two hours monthly of indi­vid­ual and group edu­ca­tional ses­sions. Those par­tic­i­pants were also given sup­ple­ments of extra vir­gin olive oil and wal­nuts.

The sec­ond group worked with stress reduc­tion tech­niques for eight weeks, while the third group was cared for accord­ing to the exist­ing insti­tu­tional pro­to­cols.

The pri­mary end­point was the per­cent­age of new­borns who were SGA at deliv­ery, defined as birth weight below the 10th per­centile,” wrote the researchers.

The sec­ondary end­point was a com­pos­ite adverse peri­na­tal out­come (at least one of the fol­low­ing: preterm birth, preeclamp­sia, peri­na­tal mor­tal­ity, severe SGA, neona­tal aci­do­sis, low Apgar score or pres­ence of any major neona­tal mor­bid­ity),” they added.

Of the 1,184 women who com­pleted the trial, 88 new­borns from the con­trol group were afflicted with SGA. In the Mediterranean diet group, this num­ber dropped to 55, while the stress reduc­tion tech­niques group had 61 SGA births.

The num­bers sug­gest that adopt­ing the Mediterranean diet almost halved the SGA risk. Similar ben­e­fi­cial effects of fol­low­ing the Mediterranean diet also were reported for the out­comes of spe­cific SGA births inves­ti­gated by the researchers.

While the results once again pro­mote the Mediterranean diet for preg­nancy, researchers warned that the study should only be con­sid­ered pre­lim­i­nary.

They stressed the rel­e­vance of repli­cat­ing these research find­ings in fol­low-up stud­ies and other pop­u­la­tions before rec­om­mend­ing the Mediterranean diet to SGA-risk patients.

However, pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that fol­low­ing the diet may have other ben­e­fi­cial effects for preg­nant women.

One study con­ducted in Spain showed that eat­ing whole grains, nuts, fruits, veg­eta­bles, fatty fish and olive oil reduced the risk of babies becom­ing obese in the early years of child­hood by 32 per­cent.

Other stud­ies showed how fol­low­ing a Mediterranean diet might sig­nif­i­cantly curb preg­nancy-related weight gain and reduce the risk of ges­ta­tional dia­betes.

In the recent past, researchers also have found that the admin­is­tra­tion of extra vir­gin olive oil dur­ing preg­nancy might pre­vent pre­na­tal oxida­tive dam­age and improve brain health in adult age.


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