Following the Mediterranean diet lowers pre-eclampsia risk

The Mediterranean diet has often been claimed by nutritionists as one of the healthiest diets to follow – lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer risk. Now researchers say following the Mediterranean diet also lowers pre-eclampsia risk in high risk pregnant women. 

The study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association, found that pregnant women following the Mediterranean diet reduced their risk of developing pre-eclampsia by 20%, which in turn reduces risk of cardiovascular disease in later life. 

As a none pharmaceutical solution, the researchers investigated the Mediterranean-style diet and potential link to reducing risk of pre-eclampsia on a population with high risk for the complication.

High risk population

The researchers ensured the 8,500 participants in the study group were racially and ethnically diverse, as previous research has suggested that black women and other ethnic minorities are at the highest risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

In the study nearly half of the participants were Black women (47%), about a quarter were Hispanic women (28%).

The women self-reported information on a postpartum questionnaire. Researchers created a Mediterranean-style diet score based on participants' responses to food frequency interviews and questionnaires, which were conducted within three days of giving birth.

The researchers analysing the survey found that the risk of pre-eclampsia was more than 20% lower among the women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet during pregnancy. 

Mediterranean diet and pre-eclampsia

The Mediterranean diet consists mainly vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Fats and proteins are in the form of nuts, olive oil and fish, with the consumption of processed foods, red meats and dairy reduced.

Pre-eclampsia, a condition during pregnancy characterized by severe high blood pressure and liver or kidney damage, is a major cause of complications and death for the mother and her unborn child. According to the  American Heart Association, pre-eclampsia also doubles a woman's risk of developing heart diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke or heart failure, in later in life.

Complications like pre-eclampsia mean women have a higher risk of preterm delivery (giving birth before 37 weeks gestation) or low birth weight babies. Further research has found that children born to mothers with pre-eclampsia are also at higher risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.

Journal Reference:

Anum S. Minhas, Xiumei Hong, Guoying Wang, Dong Keun Rhee, Tiange Liu, Mingyu Zhang, Erin D. Michos, Xiaobin Wang, Noel T. Mueller. Mediterranean‐Style Diet and Risk of Pre-eclampsia by Race in the Boston Birth Cohort. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2022; DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.121.022589