Researchers with Johns Hopkins recently released the results of a study that dug into whether adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet could reduce the risk of preeclampsia. The study looked specifically at the potential impact on ethnically divers, low-income women.
Why did the researchers decide to conduct this study?
Those with the study point to the alarming rate of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality to support the need for this research. One of the main causes for these high rates is preeclampsia. Hopkins medical professionals estimate that preeclampsia is an issue in one of every twenty-five pregnancies in the United States.
The researchers further reasoned that finding a preventative measure, like dietary guidance, could help pregnant mothers reduce their risk of this complication.
This is not the first time the prestigious institution has dug into data on maternal health for racially and ethnically diverse pregnant women. An earlier study released last year found that effort to improve weight and make healthy lifestyle changes before and during pregnancy can improve outcomes for pregnant women, including reducing the risk of preeclampsia.
This most recent study builds on this idea but focuses in on a specific option: the use of a Mediterranean-based diet.
What is a Mediterranean-based diet?
Named after the Italian and Grecian regions around the Mediterranean Sea where this diet is consumed, the Mediterranean diet is one that focuses on eating whole grains and other plant-based foods. Those who consume this type of diet add in olive oil, fish, dairy, and poultry in moderation while rarely eating sweets and red meats.
What did the researchers find?
Researchers gathered data from over 8,500 pregnant women. They determined the details of each individual’s diet by having the women fill out a questionnaire. Researchers then used this information to provide a Mediterranean-style diet score. When analyzing this score compared to preeclampsia rates, researchers found that those who most closely followed a Mediterranean-style diet had more than 20% lower rate of preeclampsia compared to those who did not.
As noted above, the goal of the study was to provide more specific information. Although beneficial to know that pregnant women in general had lower rates of preeclampsia while on the Mediterranean diet, the researchers also looked at whether the benefits were present in different demographics, specifically Black women. This is important because of the high rate of preeclampsia in this segment of the population. Researchers report these benefits were true within this specific segment of the population as well.
What does this mean for the future of prenatal healthcare?
Although the study is not definitive, it does provide some support for pregnant women to reduce weight by following a proper nutritional regimen such as the Mediterranean-based diet during pregnancy. As such, this could fuel discussions between healthcare providers and patients who are concerned about preeclampsia to consider dietary changes.