Pregnant women at high risk for developing gestational diabetes may be less likely to experience this complication when they switch to a Mediterranean diet instead of sticking with their usual eating habits, a recent experiment suggests.
Researchers studied 1,252 women who had obesity, high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol before they conceived — all so-called metabolic risk factors that increase the risk of gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Midway through pregnancy, researchers randomly assigned roughly half of these women to switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, extra virgin olive oil, fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and low on sugary foods as well as red and processed meat. The remaining mothers continued their usual diets, according to the report in PLoS Medicine.
Compared to women who didn’t change their eating habits, mothers who switched to the Mediterranean diet were 35 per cent less likely to develop gestational diabetes, a version of the disease that shows up for the first time during pregnancy.
With the Mediterranean diet, women also gained less weight: an average of 6.8kg versus 8.3kg for the control group of mothers on their usual diets.
‘A Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications in non-pregnant population,’ said Shakila Thangaratinam, senior author of the study and a researcher at Queen Mary University of London in the UK.
‘This is the largest study in pregnancy to show that Mediterranean diet minimises the risk of gestational diabetes and weight gain,’ Thangaratinam said by email. ‘It is a relatively easy to follow diet, with large benefits.’
The study team concludes that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts and extra virgin olive oil may help lower women’s’ risk of gestational diabetes or excessive weight gain during pregnancy.