Women who conceived a baby whilst following an anti-inflammatory diet are less likely to develop preeclampsia throughout their pregnancy, according to a recent study.

The research, conducted by investigators from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, analysed the link between a Mediterranean diet and pregnancy issues, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and hypertension, and stillbirth.

Natalie Bello, MD, MPH, senior and corresponding author of the study and director of Hypertension Research in the Smidt Heart Institute, said: “This multicenter, population-based study validates that a healthier eating pattern is associated with a lower risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, the most exciting being a 28 per cent lower risk for preeclampsia.

“Importantly, this connection between the Mediterranean diet and lower risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes was seen in a geographically, racially and ethnically diverse population.”

One of the main findings from the study, which involved 7,798 women, is that the association was stronger for women who were at least 35 years old.

Preeclampsia is a condition which develops during pregnancy and causes high blood pressure, so puts pressure on the mother’s heart. The condition can become serious if it is not treated as it can result in issues including a decreased blood supply to the foetus.

The research also revealed that women who follow the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes, which is when the woman’s body cannot make enough insulin during pregnancy and can cause harm to the mother and child.

The study involved women who were pregnant with their first child completing a questionnaire during their first trimester on their first study visit. It focussed on their eating habits during the three months before their visit.

Mediterranean diet scores were then calculated for each of the women using the answers they provided.

Ten per cent of the participants were at least 35 years old, 11 per cent were non-Hispanic Black, 17 per cent were Hispanic and 4 per cent were Asian. Approximately 780 of the study participants were obese when the study began.

The researchers found that a high Mediterranean score resulted in a 21 per cent less chance of developing pregnancy issues. The higher score was also associated with a 28 and 37 per cent lower risk of developing preeclampsia/eclampsia and gestational diabetes.

The study also stated: “There were no differences by race, ethnicity, and prepregnancy body mass index, but associations were stronger among women aged 35 years or older.”

“We also looked at the individual components of the Mediterranean diet and found higher intakes of vegetables, legumes and fish were related to lower associated risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome,” added Bello.

Christine Albert, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Cardiology, was not involved in the study but said: “These findings add to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that the Mediterranean-style diet may play an important role in preserving the health of women across the lifespan, including during pregnancy.”

Bello concluded: “Long-term intervention studies are needed to assess whether promoting a Mediterranean-style diet pattern around the time of conception and throughout pregnancy can prevent APOs or reduce their downstream associations with future CVD risk.”

The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open and forms part of the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers-to-be.

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