Study Suggests Mediterranean Diet Benefits Pregnant Women

The study showed that pregnant women following a Mediterranean diet benefited from less pregnancy-related weight gain and a lowered risk of developing gestational diabetes.

By Isadora Teich
Jul. 30, 2019 08:46 UTC

A study pub­lished this week in PLOS Medicine sug­gested that the Mediterranean diet may offer some health ben­e­fits to preg­nant women.

The study was con­ducted by Shakila Thangaratinam and a team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London. The 1,252 women involved in the study were cho­sen from five sep­a­rate English mater­nity wards and of diverse back­grounds.

The study results showed that the Mediterranean diet may offer ben­e­fits such as reduc­ing preg­nancy-related weight gain and low­er­ing the risk of devel­op­ing ges­ta­tional dia­betes for expect­ing moth­ers.

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All of the women involved in the study were older than 16, of var­ied back­grounds and had one meta­bolic risk fac­tor. These include obe­sity, high blood pres­sure, chronic hyper­ten­sion, or hyper­triglyc­eridemia.

This means that their chances of devel­op­ing preg­nancy-related com­pli­ca­tions were high. Researchers assigned the preg­nant women dietary advice at 18, 20, and 28 weeks. Five hun­dred and ninety three fol­lowed the diet, while 612 made up the con­trol group.

In gen­eral, the Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, veg­eta­bles, nuts, extra vir­gin olive oil, non-refined grains and legumes, poul­try, and seafood. It is also low in red meat and processed foods. Often, it involves approach­ing meals as leisurely social activ­i­ties, rather than hur­ried events.

Queen Mary University researchers found that women who fol­lowed a Mediterranean-style diet were less likely to develop ges­ta­tional dia­betes. This con­di­tion affects between two and 10 per­cent of preg­nant women in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, around half of women who develop ges­ta­tional dia­betes go on to develop Type 2 dia­betes.

Gestational dia­betes can also be a fac­tor in preg­nancy com­pli­ca­tions for expec­tant moth­ers, such as high blood pres­sure. Women with ges­ta­tional dia­betes are more likely to give birth to infants that are born large, too early or deliv­ered via cesarean sec­tion.

The study par­tic­i­pants who fol­lowed the Mediterranean diet saw their odds of devel­op­ing ges­ta­tional dia­betes drop by 35 per­cent. While the aver­age weight gain of the con­trol group was 8.3 kilo­grams (18.3 pounds), the aver­age weight gain of the women on the Mediterranean diet was 6.8 kilo­grams (15.0 pounds).

While the study does point to this diet less­en­ing weight gain and low­er­ing the mother’s risk of devel­op­ing ges­ta­tional dia­betes, it seems to have some lim­its. The Mediterranean diet did not seem to have any effect on the mother or child’s over­all risk of expe­ri­enc­ing com­pli­ca­tions.

The authors of the study want more research to be done to uncover more pos­si­ble ben­e­fits of the Mediterranean diet for expect­ing moth­ers. Future stud­ies are nec­es­sary to uncover whether this diet can reduce the risk of child­hood obe­sity, asthma, aller­gies, and the mother’s risk of devel­op­ing Type 2 dia­betes.


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