This Diet May Help Reduce Pregnancy Risks, Particularly for Black Moms

New research shows that following a Mediterranean diet may decrease the risk of preeclampsia.
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Assistant Editor
July 19, 2022
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A complication affecting 5-8 percent of pregnancies, preeclampsia is marked by high blood pressure, protein in your urine and other signs of organ damage. Preeclampsia is often difficult to diagnose and can lead to short- and long-term health consequences for mom and baby. In hopes of decreasing the prevalence of this diagnosis, researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently studied the effects of eating a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy to see if it could decrease the risk of preeclampsia, especially in Black mothers.

The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of veggies, fish, olive oil, whole grains and healthy fats. The diet has been known to have heart health benefits among the general population for quite some time, but this study highlights its effectiveness in helping prevent preeclampsia in pregnant women.

The study looked at data from 8,623 pregnant participants and determined that those who strictly followed the Mediterranean diet had a 22 percent lower risk of preeclampsia than those who did not. The benefits were particularly pronounced among Black women, who often are at a higher risk of preeclampsia.

In an interview with Insider, the study’s lead author Anum S. Minhas, MD, said that the difference in those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet was significant, especially since few other lifestyle changes have yet been observed to have an effect.

“It was remarkable. It’s actually higher than many medications that we prescribe in terms of the benefit you can see, so we were definitely surprised,” Minhas told Insider. “We were especially surprised, in a good way, to find that Black women seemed to benefit even more.”

The researchers noted while beneficial, the Mediterranean diet isn’t always easy to come by, especially for economically disadvantaged women. For all women to benefit from the Mediterranean diet, changes must be made so it is easier to access.

“A large part of the change needs to come from the state, federal, or community level to make foods more accessible to help women have healthier lifestyles when they’re pregnant,” Minhas said, adding, “Perhaps they have not had access to healthier foods or have not been able to afford healthier foods and maybe that’s the missing link. We should be working to make healthier foods available to everyone.”

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