In recent years, the idea that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy lifestyle option has become increasingly clear. Comprised of various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and proteins, the goal of the Mediterranean diet is to reduce unhealthy fats and replace them with healthy fats. For example, olive oil and fatty fish (such as salmon) are key components of the diet, eaten instead of processed foods, butter, or red meat. These foods contain monounsaturated fats that help reduce cholesterol. Among its many benefits, the Mediterranean diet can help reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
A new study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine further confirms that following a Mediterranean-style diet can also reduce the risk of preeclampsia in pregnant women. Findings from the study are published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by high blood pressure occurring late in pregnancy. It is also characterized by organ damage. Preeclampsia plays a big role in both mother and fetal deaths. In the U.S., though, it affects nearly twice as many black women compared to others.
Researchers followed over 8,000 women who were part of the Boston Birth Cohort, a study that originally set out to understand genetic risk factors associated with premature birth. Almost half of participants were Black, a quarter were Hispanic, and the rest were other races.
Two to three days after giving birth, women in the study were assigned a dietary survey to take, which asked questions about how Mediterranean dietary guidelines were followed during pregnancy. Participants were then assigned a score based on how closely they followed the dietary guidelines (the higher the score, the more regularly Mediterranean diet guidelines were followed).
After accounting for a range of other factors (such as age, marital status, race, and education), researchers concluded that people who more closely followed Mediterranean dietary guidelines were 22%-28% less likely to develop preeclampsia, regardless of racial identity.
The research team noted that more research in clinical trials is needed to better understand the overall impacts of Mediterranean diets during pregnancy.