Key Mediterranean diet foods may reduce weight gain during pregnancy

A study out of the University of Warwick and Queen Mary University of London evaluated a Mediterranean-style diet's effect on pregnant women, finding that participants who consumed the diet during pregnancy had a significantly lower risk of developing gestational diabetes compared to women who received standard prenatal care. On average, the women also gained less weight during their pregnancies.

A Mediterranean-style diet is one that emphasizes fruit and vegetables, nuts, beans, grains, olive oil, and fish. Dieters can consume small amounts of dairy, meat, and red wine, as well. The dieting protocol has been found by a number of past studies to potentially offer benefits related to obesity, cardiovascular health, and more.

This latest study involved 1,252 multi-ethnic inner-city pregnant women who had various metabolic risk factors, including chronic high blood pressure and obesity. Researchers provided the women with vitamin D and folic acid supplements; they also randomly assigned the women to either eat a Mediterranean-style diet or a standard prenatal and weight management diet for pregnant women based on UK recommendations.

In this case, the researchers defined a Mediterranean-style diet as one containing 30 grams of nuts per day comprised of 7.5 grams of hazelnuts, 7.5 grams of almonds, and 15 grams of walnuts. As well, these participants used 0.5 liters of extra virgin olive oil weekly as the primary cooking fat in their diets.

Fish consumption on this diet was moderate to high, dairy and chicken consumption was low to moderate, processed and red meat consumption was low, and foods containing high quantities of animal fat, as well as sugary drinks and fast food, were avoided. The dieters were told to emphasize legumes, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit in their meals.

The researchers determined participants' adherence to the diet protocol using self-reported data, meaning the information may not have been entirely accurate. Despite that, the team found that compared to the women receiving standard prenatal care, the participants who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had a 35-percent lower risk of developing gestational diabetes; they also, on average, gained 2.75lbs less than women in the control group.