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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