Research has found that following a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy can help reduce weight gain and the risk of developing gestational diabetes

Although following a simple Mediterranean-style diet in pregnancy does not reduce the overall risk of adverse maternal and offspring complications, it does have the potential to reduce weight gain and the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

This is according to a clinical trial led by the Queen Mary University of London and the University of Warwick.

Researchers found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet (including 30g of mixed nuts per day and extra-virgin olive oil) led to a 35 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes and an average of 1.25 kg less weight gain in pregnancy, compared to those who received routine antenatal care.

Mediterranean diet helps women at risk for pregnancy complications

The study points a Mediterranean-style diet being an effective intervention for women who enter pregnancy with pre-existing obesity, chronic hypertension or raised lipid levels.

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These women have a high risk of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes (when high blood sugar develops during pregnancy) and pre-eclampsia – the onset of high blood pressure in pregnancy which can sometimes develop into more serious conditions affecting multiple organs.

These mothers and their babies are also at long-term risk of diabetes and cardiovascular complications.

Putting Mediterranean diets to the test

For the study, a group of 1 252 multi-ethnic inner-city pregnant women with metabolic risk factors, including obesity and chronic hypertension were randomised to either receive routine antenatal care, or a Mediterranean-style diet in addition to their antenatal care.

The diet included a high intake of nuts, extra virgin olive oil, fruit, vegetables, non-refined grains and legumes; moderate to high consumption of fish, small to moderate intake of poultry and dairy products; and low intake of red meat and processed meat; and avoidance of sugary drinks, fast food, and food rich in animal fat.

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The participants in the Mediterranean-style diet group reported better overall quality of life than those in the control group and reduced bloatedness in pregnancy, but there was no effect on other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or indigestion.

When the data from the study was combined with published data from a Spanish study involving 874 pregnant women on a Mediterranean diet, the team observed a similarly large reduction in gestational diabetes (a 33 per cent reduction), but no effect on other outcomes.

“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.” says Professor Shakila Thangaratinam from Queen Mary University of London.

Pregnancy: What you need to know about gestational diabetes

Source: Queen Mary University of London via www.sciencedaily.com

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