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How pregnant women benefit from vegetables and fish

Friday January 25th, 2019

Pregnant women can lower their risk of developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia if they eat a diet rich in vegetables and fish, according to a newly published study.

The research involved 55,138 women who took part in the Danish National Birth Cohort prospective longitudinal study.

They took part in two telephone interviews during their pregnancy – at 12 weeks and 30 weeks of gestation – and two further interviews at six and 18 months after birth. They also completed a questionnaire about their diet at 25 weeks’ gestation.

In total, 14% of women developed gestational hypertension, 2% developed pre-eclampsia and 0.4% had severe pre-eclampsia. On average, women with high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia had a higher body mass index (1.6-2.3 kg/m2 higher) than those without the conditions

The researchers found that a diet rich in vegetables and fish decreased the odds of developing gestational hypertension by 14% and pre-eclampsia by 21%.

Meanwhile, a Western diet that was high in potatoes, meat, white bread and margarine increased the chances of developing pre-eclampsia by 40% and gestational hypertension by 18%.

While the study, which is published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found an association between diet and risk of hypertension during pregnancy, the authors say that their results add to evidence that supports the consumption of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Study author Ms Emmanuella Ikem, School of Medicine, University of Bristol, and School of Public Health, Imperial College London, said: “Our findings support the importance of eating a healthy and well-balanced diet in vegetables and fish and cutting out processed foods where possible. This will help to reduce a woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

“Current advice recommends eating at least five portions of different fruit and vegetables every day, instead of foods high in fat. And generally it is safe to consume fish during pregnancy – no more than two portions of oily fish, such as mackerel or salmon, a week, and no more than two fresh tuna steaks or four medium-sized cans of tuna a week. Women should avoid eating shark, swordfish or marlin.”

Describing the findings as “encouraging”, Dr Pat O’Brien, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said it demonstrated that pregnant women can take steps to reduce their risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia by eating healthily.

Ikem E, Halldorsson TI, Birgisdóttir BE et al. Dietary patterns and the risk of pregnancy?associated hypertension in the Danish National Birth Cohort: a prospective longitudinal study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 24 January 2019.

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Diet & Food | Europe | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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