A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology sheds light on the potential impact of plant-based diets on reducing the risk of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy. The research, conducted over nearly two decades, followed 11,459 women and observed a total of 16,780 pregnancies, offering valuable insights into the relationship between diet and pregnancy outcomes.
The study aimed to determine whether adhering to plant-based diets before and during pregnancy could influence the risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. The researchers hypothesized that women who followed predominantly plant-based diets would have a reduced risk of developing these conditions.
The dietary choices of the participants were re-assessed every four years, and this data was used to assign a plant-based diet index score, with higher scores meaning higher adherence. Over the course of the study, participants self-reported any hypertensive disorders related to pregnancy.
Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro, one of the study’s authors and a professor at Harvard University’s Medical School and School of Public Health, highlighted the significance of the research in an interview with Medscape Spanish Edition, stating, “We wanted to know how one’s diet leading up to pregnancy influences the pregnancy, so we monitored women for virtually their entire reproductive life — almost 20 years — and gained an awareness of their typical diet before pregnancy,” he explained.
The results of the study were significant. Women in the top 20% of adherence to plant-based diets exhibited a substantially lower risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy compared to those in the lowest 20%. As the commitment to a plant-based diet increased, the risk of experiencing hypertensive disorders during pregnancy decreased. This finding suggests that a plant-based diet may be associated with a protective effect against these pregnancy-related health issues.
Plant-based diet and BMI
A noteworthy aspect of the study was the assessment of potential mediators of this relationship. It was found that body mass index (BMI) explained a significant portion of the relationship between diet and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy (between 39-48%). This suggests that improved weight control, facilitated by a plant-based diet, may play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of these disorders.
Chavarro concluded to Medscape, “Could it be that modifiable lifestyle factors before and during pregnancy may not only help reduce problems during gestation but also prevent women’s health problems years later? That was the general motivation for this study.”
Find the complete study here.