Eating a Mediterranean diet while pregnant does not reduce the overall risk of complications in mother and child, but it may reduce weight gain and lower the risk of gestational diabetes, according to a new clinical trial published in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy, typically developing during the second or third trimester and affecting roughly 4% of pregnancies in the United States. The Mediterranean diet, which is a style of eating rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, olive oil and fish, and has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including lower risk of heart attack and stroke, prevention of type 2 diabetes and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
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To determine the ability of the diet to improve health outcomes in pregnant women and their offspring, researchers worked with 1,252 multi-ethnic, inner-city pregnant women in maternity units in the United Kingdom, randomly assigning the participants to either routine pregnancy care or to a Mediterranean diet along with their typical pregnancy care.
Those eating the Mediterranean diet did not experience improvements in pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia (the onset of high blood pressure in pregnancy), stillbirth, small baby size or premature birth. However, they were found to have reduced pregnancy weight gain and decreased risk of developing gestational diabetes — when the data was combined with that from a Spanish study, there was found to be a 33% reduction in gestational diabetes risk. They also reported better overall quality of life and reduced bloating in pregnancy than the control group.
“Implementing this diet seems to be effective and acceptable to women,” notes researcher Shakila Thangaratinam, PhD, MRCOG, a professor at Queen Mary University of London. Current national dietary guidelines do not include the key components of the Mediterranean-style diet in their recommendations. Women who are at risk of gestational diabetes should be encouraged to take action early on in pregnancy, by consuming more nuts, olive oil, fruit and unrefined grains, while reducing their intake of animal fats and sugar.”
Senior Digital Editor for DiabetesSelfManagement.com, Fennell has 16 years’ experience specializing in diabetes and related health conditions. Based in New York City, she has a degree from Columbia University.