According to a new study, a Mediterranean diet that consists primarily of whole grains, fish, and plant-based foods could help reduce the risk of pregnancy and other complications in women.
A study of 7,798 women who were pregnant was conducted by 16 health professionals and published in JAMA Network Open on Thursday. The study found that pregnant risks fell by 21% for women who eat a Mediterranean diet at conception and early pregnancy.
More studies will be needed “to assess whether dietary modification around the time of conception” might help reduce the “future development” of heart disease among women, the researchers wrote.
According to Dr. Natalie Bello, a cardiologist and the lead author of this study, women of all races and weights can benefit from a Mediterranean diet.
“Adoption of a Mediterranean diet pattern may be an important lifestyle approach to preventing adverse pregnancy outcomes, especially in women of advanced maternal age,” said Dr. Bello, a researcher at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The study, which analysed data from a National Institutes of Health program, found that women aged 35 and over experienced the greatest health benefits following the diet.
Other foods the study associated with a Mediterranean diet include fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and vegetables — but not potatoes.
The study confirms that “making healthy food choices prior to conception and in pregnancy is important for the health of mother and baby,” Dr. Bello added in an email.
She said that expectant mothers should choose seafood and fish with low mercury content, and to continue taking prenatal vitamins regardless if they eat.
“The Mediterranean diet also includes low to moderate fish, chicken and dairy intake with little to no red meat,” Dr. Bello said. “In general, it is consistent with the healthy diet we recommend in pregnancy.”
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