Can A Mediterranean Diet In Pregnancy Can Reduce Chance Of Childhood Obesity?

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New Study links diet rich in vegetables, fish and good quality extra virgin olive oil with healthier eating behaviours and BMI throughout childhood.

Updated January 27th 2023

Mediterranean Diet For Pregnancy
Mediterranean Diet For Pregnancy


  • A Mediterranean diet including extra virgin olive oil during pregnancy can have a profound effect on the wellness of infants and children
  • This type of healthy diet can not only benefit the mother’s wellness but also provide a solid start leading to long-term benefits related to better nutrition, metabolism, and overall growth.


The Mediterranean Diet & Pregnancy

The Mediterranean diet is known for its focus on extra virgin olive oil, rich in anti-inflammatory fats and other heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This diet particularly during pregnancy can have a profound effect on the wellness of infants and even children. Recent studies indicate that a healthy dietary pattern during pregnancy could result in improved birth weight and reduced risk of childhood obesity.

A shift to a Mediterranean-style diet with extra virgin olive oil may also bring about long-term benefits related to better nutrition, metabolism, and overall growth. In addition, substituting extra virgin olive oil for other types of fat such as saturated fat or processed trans-fat can go far in supporting weight loss efforts for both mother and child.

Eating a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy consisting of extra virgin olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans and nuts, this type of healthy diet can not only benefit the mother’s wellness but also provide a solid start to the baby’s weight loss journey.

A Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best ways to reduce inflammation and boost immunity, as well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that parents who take extra care to ensure their children consume nutritious food during early years will not only give them an extra fat-burning edge in terms of metabolism but also lay the groundwork for a lifelong commitment to healthy eating from an early age.

Study : American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition

A major new study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that the children of mothers who eat a diet rich in inflammatory foods including sugars, artificial trans fats and processed meats will experience greater weight gain between the ages of three and ten years.

The findings of this latest research add weight to previous understanding that weight gain problems may begin in pregnancy as pathways that program metabolism and patterns of eating are sensitive to in utero influences.

Among the recommendations from the research team is that pregnant women consider a Mediterranean Diet, high in plant-based foods, including extra virgin olive oil, fish and unsaturated fats to benefit both mother and child’s health. These foods provide important sources of vitamin D, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and other nutrients that have been shown to be beneficial for offspring health.

In their study, Author Carmen Monthé-Drèze and colleagues analysed data on 1,459 mother-child pairs collected by Project Viva — an ongoing study into maternal and child health being conducted at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Massachusetts.

During their respective pregnancies, each mother was asked to complete questionnaires on their dietary intake, which the researchers interpreted through the lens of three different dietary indices. These included the Dietary Inflammatory Index, the Mediterranean diet score, and the Alternate Healthy Eating Index for Pregnancy.

After giving birth, each child was weighed and measured several times between birth and adolescence, from which body mass index (BMI) values were calculated. Finally, the researchers analysed how each mother’s dietary index scores were associated with their offspring’s growth trajectory.

“Maternal nutrition during pregnancy may have a long-term impact on children’s weight trajectories,” said Dr Monthé-Drèze.

She added that the findings suggest “there are specific developmental periods when nutrition during pregnancy may influence offspring growth.”

“We found that a pregnancy diet with higher inflammatory potential was associated with faster BMI growth rates in children between three and ten years of age.”

“We also found that lower adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet during pregnancy was associated with higher BMI trajectories through adolescence.”

Dr Monthé-Drèze.

Researchers also revealed that, of those taking part in the study, mothers who more closely followed an anti-inflammatory diet were also more likely to be well-educated, have a higher income, and less likely to smoke or have obesity themselves.  As reported in Insider, this is likely due to the fact that financial and social resources impact dietary health and consistent access to healthy food makes a difference in preventing obesity.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A vital component in Mediterranean Diet

Morocco Gold Extra Virgin Olive Oil Bread Oil
Morocco Gold Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. A healthy diet that is associated with sensible tasty portions and slower, more enjoyable eating. People who eat a Mediterranean diet have been shown to have a remarkable variety of health benefits. The extra virgin olive oil in the Mediterranean diet can quickly satisfy hunger. It can lead to fewer total calories ingested at mealtime.

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the few oils that can be eaten without chemical processing. For instance, nearly every other vegetable oil has been detoxified and refined with steam and solvents. Fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil can be eaten immediately. It retains the natural flavours, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy products of the ripe olive fruit.

Harvard Medical School Food Pyramid

Evoo And The Mediterranean Diet
Evoo And The Mediterranean Diet

The Harvard Pyramid is based on the Mediterranean diet. Its structure came from the diets of the inhabitants of Crete and Southern Italy in the 1960’s. Presented in 1993 by Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health at the International Conference on the Mediterranean Diet held in Cambridge Massachusetts. Note that olive oil is one of the basic components. This pyramid has enjoyed decades of increasing acceptance.

According to the Harvard Medical School Food Pyramid, the total amount of fat you eat, whether high or low, is not really linked with disease. Similarly, what really matters is the type of fat you eat. In other words, the “bad” fats, saturated and trans fats, increase the risk for certain diseases. Similarly, the “good” fats, mono-unsaturated, and poly-unsaturated fats like those contained in extra virgin olive oil lower disease risk. In conclusion, the key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats and to avoid trans fats.