The Smidt Heart Institute from Cedars-Sinai found that pregnant women on a Mediterranean diet were less likely to suffer from preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a hypertensive disease of pregnancy that begins after twenty weeks of gestation. Patients with preeclampsia have a blood pressure of more than 140/90, proteinuria, and can sometimes experience lower limb swelling.
A Mediterranean diet prevents health risks during pregnancy
The study also evaluated the effect of a Mediterranean diet on other adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth, gestational diabetes, low birth weight, and stillbirth.
According to Dr. Natalie Bello, a lead study author and Hypertension Research director at Smidt Heart Institute, the study shows the benefits of a healthy diet in preventing adverse pregnancy outcomes. However, she states that the most exciting discovery for the researchers was finding a 28% reduction in preeclampsia with a Mediterranean diet. Fortunately, researchers found this benefit in populations of different races, ethnicities, and geographical backgrounds.
Bello also states that the benefits were higher in some advanced maternal ages 35 and above. This could be because older women have a higher risk of developing preeclampsia and, thus, are more likely to benefit from the diet.
How researchers conducted the study
The researchers conducted this study as part of the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcome Study. The study recruited 10,038 participants between 2010 and 2013. Among these women, 7798 are part of the JAMA Network Open Study.
The researchers asked women pregnant for the first time to complete a questionnaire on their eating habits during their first trimester. First, they looked at their eating patterns three months before the study visit and asked them about beverages and foods they commonly take. Researchers then categorized their answers according to the nine components of a Mediterranean diet. These components are alcohol, processed and red meat, the ratio of saturated to non-saturated fat, fish, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
The team found that women on a Mediterranean diet were less likely to have preeclampsia. Moreover, certain components of the diet were more beneficial. These included legumes, fish, and vegetables.
This study isn’t the first to investigate the effects of a Mediterranean diet on preeclampsia. However, it adds to the growing evidence of the diet’s benefits.