Health Benefits Of Mediterranean Diet For Pregnant Women
Lovers of extra virgin olive oil may have heard of some health benefits to following The Mediterranean Diet during pregnancy and a new study shows a reduced risk of preeclampsia for women who follow this eating plan.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that women who follow The Mediterranean Diet have a lower risk of developing preeclampsia.
What Is Preeclampsia And How Can The Mediterranean Diet Help?
Preeclampsia is a hypertension (high blood pressure) disorder that can occur during pregnancy and is characterized by protein in urine, hand and feet swelling. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had previously been in the standard range. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious — even fatal — complications for both the mother and baby.
Previous studies have found that following a Mediterranean diet, which consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, and fish, reduces heart disease risk in adults.
And, according to analysis of health and dietary data for more than 8,500 pregnant women, greater adherence to a Mediterranean style eating plan was associated with a lower risk of preeclampsia.
- The reduction in risk of preeclampsia was greatest among Black women – a population at high risk for preeclampsia.
As explained in a report on newsroom.heart.org:
Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Could Benefit Mother and Child
Black women are at higher risk of developing preeclampsia, yet research on potential treatments for high-risk women are limited, according to the study researchers. The researchers investigated the potential association of a Mediterranean-style diet among a large group of racially and ethnically diverse women who have a high risk of preeclampsia.
“The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries, and preeclampsia contributes to it,” said Anum S. Minhas, M.D., M.H.S., chief cardiology fellow and a cardio-obstetrics and advanced imaging fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “Given these health hazards to both mothers and their children, it is important to identify modifiable factors to prevent the development of preeclampsia, especially among Black women who are at the highest risk of this serious pregnancy complication.”
This study included data for more than 8,500 women enrolled between 1998 and 2016 in the Boston Birth Cohort. Participants’ median age was 25 years old, and they were recruited from Boston Medical Center, which serves a predominantly urban, low-income, under-represented racial and ethnic population. Nearly half of the participants were Black women (47%), about a quarter were Hispanic women(28%) and the remaining were white women or “other” race, according to self-reported information on a postpartum questionnaire. Researchers created a Mediterranean-style diet score based on participants’ responses to food frequency interviews and questionnaires, which were conducted within three days of giving birth.
The analysis found:
- 10% of the study participants developed preeclampsia.
- Women who had any form of diabetes before pregnancy and pre-pregnancy obesity were twice as likely to develop preeclampsia compared to women without those conditions.
- The risk of preeclampsia was more than 20% lower among the women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet during pregnancy.
- Black women who had the lowest Mediterranean-style diet scores had the highest risk (72% higher) for preeclampsia compared to all other non-Black women who more closely adhered to the Mediterranean-style diet.
“We were surprised that women who more frequently ate foods in the Mediterranean-style diet were significantly less likely to develop preeclampsia, with Black women experiencing the greatest reduction in risk,”Anum S. Minhas, M.D., M.H.S.
“This is remarkable because there are very few interventions during pregnancy that are found to produce any meaningful benefit, and medical treatments during pregnancy must be approached cautiously to ensure the benefits outweigh the potential risks to the mother and the unborn child.” Minhas added, “Women should be encouraged to follow a healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and regular exercise, at all stages in life. Eating healthy foods regularly, including vegetables, fruits and legumes, is especially important for women during pregnancy. Their health during pregnancy affects their future cardiovascular health and also impacts their baby’s health.”
Further Research On Benefits Of Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy
The three specific diets included in the research include the alternative Mediterranean Diet, alternative healthy eating index and the diet of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH).
The Mediterranean Diet is known for its emphasis on fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The study was conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Eunice Kennedy Shriver and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It studied nearly 1,900 women who responded to questionnaires about their diets between weeks 8 and 13 of pregnancy. The participants were also asked to estimate what they ate in the previous three months. This allowed their responses to be analysed according to three measures of healthy eating: the alternative healthy eating index (AHEI), the alternative Mediterranean diet (AMED) and the diet of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH).