Could Following The Mediterranean Diet During Pregnancy Reduce Your Risk Of Preeclampsia?

Doctors have known for decades that the Mediterranean diet, a diet patterned after the traditional cuisines of the Mediterranean region, is heart-healthy and significantly reduces your risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke (via Verywell Fit). But recent research adds a new and significant benefit to the list: The diet may also help prevent potentially fatal preeclampsia in pregnant women.

A Boston Medical Center study conducted with over 8500 women participants, recruited largely from low-income and under-represented racial and ethnic populations, found that 10% of the women developed preeclampsia, a condition characterized by severely high blood pressure and organ damage, during pregnancy (via Healthline). But those who self-reported and followed a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and fish, had a significantly lowered risk of developing preeclampsia.

The greatest benefit was for Black women, who reduced their preeclampsia risk by 26%. This is important because Black women are at a statistically greater risk of developing preeclampsia than other racial groups. Women representing other races also benefited significantly by following a Mediterranean diet, reducing their risk by 19% (via Everyday Health). These findings are especially important because there are very few effective treatments available to treat preeclampsia, and the condition can have negative effects for both mother and baby that can continue for decades.

The Mediterranean diet is healthy for mom and baby

Dr. Anum S. Minhas, lead author of the study and chief cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins University, told Insider, "It was remarkable. [The Mediterranean diet is] actually higher than many medications that we prescribe in terms of the benefit you can see, so we were definitely surprised. We were especially surprised, in a good way, to find that Black women seemed to benefit even more."

The study results suggest that in the U.S., which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes could have a socioeconomic root, given that all racial groups benefited from an improved diet. Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine and co-author of this study, adds, "Lifestyle is impactful — one can change the trajectory of their health [by] following a healthy diet, combined with regular physical activity and not smoking" (via Johns Hopkins HUB).