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July 24, 2019

Mediterranean diet may be antidote to unhealthy weight gain, gestational diabetes in pregnant women

New research adds yet another potential benefit to the popular diet

Women's Health Pregnancy
Mediterranean diet pregnancy Jessica Lewis/Unsplash

Great emphasis is put on what pregnant women can’t eat during pregnancy, but what they can and should eat — aside from a “balanced” diet — is a little more up in the air.

To give pregnant women a little more direction, researchers at the Queen Mary University in London analyzed the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for expecting women.

The study notes that while it is known that the diet — rich in healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and grains — can’t sway pregnancy outcomes, it is thought that it may help limit weight gain during pregnancy and lower the risk of gestational diabetes.

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The study was published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Researchers called upon 1,252 pregnant women with “metabolic risk factors” from five city hospitals in the United Kingdom for the study. About half of the women were assigned the Mediterranean diet and received mixed nuts and olive oil. The remainder were assigned to the control group.

The study found that the Mediterranean diet led to a 35 percent lower risk of developing gestational diabetes and an average of 2.75 pounds less weight gain during pregnancy.

"Implementing this diet seems to be effective and acceptable to women. Current national dietary guidelines do not include the key components of the Mediterranean-style diet in their recommendations,” said Shakila Thangaratinam, the author of the study. “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.”

Per the research, one in four pregnant women have conditions like pre-existing obesity, chronic hypertension or raised lipid levels which can lead to complications. The Mediterranean diet is known to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular in individuals who are not pregnant — in addition to potentially limiting cancer risks, promoting longevity, and stabilizing depression and anxiety

This is the first study suggesting women with high-risk pregnancies may benefit from the diet, too, researchers said.

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