Mediterranean diet: The benefits to mother and child during pregnancy

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Experts say a Mediterranean diet provides a number of Health benefits during pregnancy. Vera Lair/Stocksy
  • A Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, lean proteins, fish, and olive oil.
  • In a new study, researchers report that children born to mothers who adhered to a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy had better neurodevelopment at the age of 2.
  • Experts say a Mediterranean diet is Healthy in pregnancy, but some kinds of fish high in mercury should not be eaten.

A Mediterranean diet during pregnancy significantly improves the neurodevelopment of children through the first 2 years of their life.

That’s according to a study published today in the journal JAMA Network Open.

In it, researchers report that children born to mothers who followed a Mediterranean diet in pregnancy had better cognitive and social-emotional scores.

“The association between maternal diet and offspring neurodevelopment has been suggested by several epidemiological studies. It has been proposed that several dietary components may mediate changes in inflammatory status interfering with brain development in utero,” the study authors wrote.

“The positive findings in our study may be explained by the use of a healthy dietary pattern instead of supplementation with a specific nutrient… several dietary components, including long-chain polysaturated fatty acids, monosaturated fatty acids from extra virgin olive oil, antioxidant vitamins, dietary fiber, and polyphenols, may explain the effects of the Mediterranean diet on reducing inflammatory and oxidative stress markers,” they added.

The findings come from a study that involved examining the impact of both the Mediterranean diet and mindfulness-based stress reductions during pregnancy.

In all, 1,221 pregnancies between 19 to 23 weeks gestation were randomly allocated to three groups.

One group of participants followed the Mediterranean diet intervention, another followed the mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention, and one was given no intervention.

Researchers reported that women in the Mediterranean diet group followed that eating pattern for roughly 11 to 13 weeks. During this time, they underwent 30-minute visits with a trained nutritionist once a month as well as a 1 hour group session once a month.

During their visits with the nutritionist, the women were given recipes, a shopping list, meal plans, and daily menus.

The researchers assessed 626 children from these participants at about 2 years of age.

The researchers reported that, compared with children whose mothers were part of neither intervention group, the children whose mothers followed the Mediterranean diet scored higher in both the cognitive and social-emotional domains.

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