A new study suggests that women who follow a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy may have a lower risk of developing dangerously high blood pressure and other adverse outcomes.
An analysis of food consumption and outcome data from approximately 8,000 pregnant women found that those who adhered most closely to the Mediterranean diet had pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), eclampsia (a comorbidity of pre-eclampsia that causes seizures and coma). disease) was found to be low. Gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy that was not previously present). According to a report published in JAMA Network Open, children born to women who followed the diet were less likely to be born still, prematurely, or small for their gestational age.
Is the Mediterranean diet good for pregnancy?
“We found that women who reported eating foods consistent with the Mediterranean diet around conception and pregnancy had a lower risk of adverse outcomes, particularly pre-eclampsia and diabetes,” said the study. Co-author Natalie Bello, Ph.D., director of cardiology and hypertension research at the Sumit Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told TODAY.com. women were found to benefit equally, with even stronger benefits from this diet among women over the age of 35.”
Bello was particularly pleased with the finding of pre-eclampsia, as it can be one of the more dangerous pregnancy outcomes. Kidneys, liver and blood clotting may also be involved, she says.
“What we are concerned about is the risk to both mother and baby. If blood pressure is not treated, it can lead to eclampsia and women to have seizures.” Doctors give birth to babies early To do.
The new study is “really exciting,” Judy Simon, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in reproductive health at the University of Washington in Seattle, tells TODAY.com. It gives us some great evidence about the effects of things and how this can positively affect pregnancy and prevent adverse outcomes.”
“The most interesting thing is that there were enough of them to look at age, race and ethnicity,” says Simon. “It provides a positive message for both women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant and their providers.”
“Research shows that most women don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables,” Simon says. There are benefits,” she adds.
And the benefits continue even after the baby is born.
“If a woman had gestational diabetes, she has a 50% chance of developing diabetes later in life,” says Simon.
Another interesting feature of the study was that “the impact of healthy eating was shown across all races and backgrounds, and it didn’t matter if the women were obese or not,” says registered dietitian. said Mark C. O’Meara, Sr. Nutritionist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
What Research on Pregnancy and the Mediterranean Diet Shows
To explore the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the adverse effects of pregnancy, Bella and her colleagues turned to data from the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study, which enrolled 10,038 women who were pregnant for the first time and were in their first trimester. rice field. A group of ethnically and racially diverse women recruited from eight university medical systems were followed through the remainder of their pregnancies.
At the beginning of the study, women were asked to complete a food frequency questionnaire. They were categorized into the nine components of the Mediterranean diet: red and processed meats, and alcohol.
In their analysis, Bello and her colleagues only included information from the 7,798 women with complete data. Researchers found that women who followed a Mediterranean diet more closely were 21% less likely to have adverse pregnancy-related outcomes, 28% less likely to develop pre-eclampsia, and to develop gestational diabetes. We found it to be 37% less likely.
Previous studies have also found that a Mediterranean diet improves pregnancy outcomes. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in April found similar results for pre-eclampsia. Another study published in PLOS Medicine in 2019 found it reduced the risk of gestational diabetes.
Is the Mediterranean diet good for fertility?
Both Bello and Simon say research shows that following a Mediterranean diet before conception can improve pregnancy outcomes.
Another recent study published in the journal Nutrients found that a Mediterranean diet can also improve sperm quality. How? By reducing inflammation in the body, Australian researchers noted. Constituents of the Mediterranean diet that are particularly effective in reducing infertility include monounsaturated fats, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, and polyphenols. , processed meat intake restrictions, etc.
A diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and fat is associated with higher inflammation.
Starting a Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy
“Women who want to change their diet should try to eat at least two to three servings of fruits and vegetables a day, one step at a time,” advises Simon.
Bello offers similar guidance. Start by adding extra veggies and swapping out one meat meal. Choose whole grains and avoid ultra-processed foods. ”
O’Meara usually starts by giving women “practical ideas on how to transition to this type of eating pattern,” based on what they were already eating when they first met.
“We introduce the concept of a balanced plate, where the vegetables are the largest part of the plate and size matters,” he explains.
It’s important to make sure that the space occupied by protein is as large as the space occupied by carbohydrates. Another big part is healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and fatty fish.”
What is the best diet for pregnancy?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it’s important to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and protein during pregnancy.
Try to avoid added sugars, saturated fats, sodium, refined grains and starches.You should also try to consume the correct number of calories per day. This means that for most women, the first trimester she takes no extra, the second trimester she takes 340 extra, and the third trimester she takes 450 extra. Your midwife doctor can help you with this calculation.
Part of a good pregnancy diet also means taking prenatal vitamins daily, including folic acid, iron and iodine.
HHS also recommends eating 8 to 12 ounces of seafood each week as part of a healthy pregnancy diet. Choose foods low in mercury, such as canned light tuna, catfish, cod, herring, oysters, salmon, shad, shrimp, tilapia, and trout. Avoid bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish and tilefish as they contain mercury.
don’t drink alcohol Also, limit your intake of caffeine and sugar in beverages.