THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET DURING PREGNANCY AND ITS BENEFITS IN CHILDHOOD

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The Mediterranean Diet is a healthy eating pattern characterized by a high content of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes and nuts. This dietary pattern has been associated with a lower risk of obesity and cardiometabolic risk in adults, while in boys and girls studies are scarce, as reported by ISGlobal.

The research, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, aimed to evaluate the relationship between the monitoring of the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy and the trajectories of growth and cardiometabolic risk during early childhood.

The study was conducted from more than 2,700 pregnant women from Asturias, Guipúzcoa, Sabadell and Valencia, who are part of the INMA-Children and Environment Project. The women filled out a questionnaire on food consumption in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. In addition, her sons and daughters were followed -diet, weight and height- from birth to four years. At this age they also underwent various tests, such as a blood test and taking blood pressure.

The results showed that pregnant women with greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet had a 32% lower risk of having sons and daughters with an accelerated growth trajectory, in comparison with the sons and daughters of mothers who did not follow this diet.

Sílvia Fernández, ISGlobal researcher and first author of the publication, highlights that “mothers with less adherence to the Mediterranean diet were younger, consumed more calories, were more likely to be smokers and a lower socio-educational level”, compared to the women who did follow this diet.

These results support the hypothesis that a “healthy diet during pregnancy can have a beneficial role for the development of children”, concludes Dora Romaguera, a researcher at ISGlobal and CIBERobn who has coordinated the study.

Regarding the mechanisms that explain this relationship, the researcher points to possible “epigenetic modifications that regulate fetal cardiometabolic programming, or to the effect of shared dietary habits between mothers and children, although this must be studied in future research”.

The study found no association between following a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy and a reduction in cardiometabolic risk in childhood, that is, blood pressure or cholesterol. For Silvia Fernández, one of the explanations may be that “the effects of prenatal exposures on cardiometabolic risk do not appear until later in childhood”.

The main conclusion of the study coordinated by researchers from Ciberesp and CIBERobn at the Institute of Global Health of Barcelona (ISGlobal), a center promoted by the ‘la Caixa’ Banking Foundation, is that:

Pregnant women who follow a Mediterranean Diet have less risk of their children having a path of accelerated growth, characterized by a high birth weight and a rapid increase in childhood, which could determine an increased risk of obesity in the future.

SOURCE: The Journal of Pediatrics.

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