Well-Being Longevity

Mediterranean diet linked to lower risk of preeclampsia in pregnancies

The study adds to the growing body of work lauding the effects of the anti-inflammatory diet.
Balanced nutrition concept for clean eating flexitarian mediterranean diet. Assortment of healthy food ingredients for cooking. (Getty images)

Story at a glance

  • A new study published in JAMA Network Open found a connection between the Mediterranean diet and decreased adverse pregnancy outcomes.  

  • The study was conducted by at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai and looked at the diet of more than 7,700 expecting mothers.  

  • Researchers found women who ate a predominantly Mediterranean diet had a 28 percent lower risk of developing preeclampsia.  

New research shows a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seafood could help lower women’s chances of developing serious pregnancy complications.  

A study published Thursday in JAMA Network Open claims that women who conceive while following the Mediterranean diet have a “significantly” lower risk of developing preeclampsia during their pregnancy.  

Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication that can cause high blood pressure and put stress on a mother’s heart. If left untreated, the condition can weaken blood supply to a developing fetus and weaken a mother’s kidney and liver function.  

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Researchers from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai monitored nearly 7,800 expecting mothers between 2010 and 2013 for the study and analyzed their findings between June 2021 and April 2022, according to the study.  

Out of the study participants, 10 percent were 35 years or older; 17 percent were Hispanic; 11 percent non-Hispanic and 4 percent identified as Asian. Another 20 percent of participants were considered obese at the beginning of the study.

Researchers collected data on the mother’s food habits during the three months around conception to evaluate their adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based food, whole grains and healthy fats.

Mothers were each given a score from 0 to 9 based on their diet. Researchers found that mothers with a “high Mediterranean Diet score” or a score between 6 to 9 were connected to a 21 percent lower risk of developing any adverse pregnancy outcomes like preeclampsia.  

Those same mothers had a 28 percent lower risk of developing preeclampsia and eclampsia.  

Some of the other pregnancy complications researchers studied were gestational diabetes, hypertension, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight in babies.  

The study found mothers with high Mediterranean diet scores also had a 37 percent lower chance of getting gestational diabetes.

“There were no differences by race, ethnicity, and prepregnancy body mass index,” the study notes.  “But associations were stronger among women aged 35 years or older.”

While the study adds to a growing body of work supporting the positive health impacts of the Mediterranean diet, the Smidt Heart Institute’s Natalie Bello, senior author on the study, said more long-term studies are needed to determine if adopting the diet at conception and throughout pregnancy can prevent health complications.  

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