Study suggests that women who are pregnant and eat Mediterranean food may have less chance of having a small baby.

Spanish researchers followed 1200 pregnant women through their second half of the pregnancies. The risk was high that they would have a child with a low birthweight.

Babies who are born small — meaning their birth weight is in the lowest 10 percentile— are more likely to suffer brain and heart development problems as they get older.

The results showed that women with a Mediterranean diet (which includes lots of fruits and vegetables) were 42% less likely to have a child who is too small.

According to the same research, mindfulness was also found to be beneficial.

The trendy form of meditation, practiced by celebrities including Prince Harry and Beyoncé, cut the risk by 34 per cent.

To allow researchers to analyze the data, the 1,200 women were divided into three groups.

Another third followed a Mediterranean lifestyle, another third tried stress-reduction techniques and the remainder received standard care.

However, academics pointed out that this study was preliminary in nature and should not be used to recommend treatments for patients.

While it’s not known what causes babies being born small, there are risk factors like over-40, smoking, or obesity.

There are currently no proven scientific ways to keep a baby smaller than necessary.

The graph shows the birth weight and gestational age of the newborns whose mothers participated in the trial, in relation to whether they ate a Mediterranean diet (top), engaged in stress reduction courses (middle) or received usual care (bottom). Each dot shows how much the baby weighed and which week it was born at, with the middle line in the horizontal and vertical box plots showing the average for each group. Among the control group, 88 newborns (21.9 per cent) were considered small, compared to just 55 in the Mediterranean diet group (14 per cent) and 61 (15.6 per cent) in the stress reduction group

The graph below shows how the mothers of infants who were part in the trial ate, exercised or had usual care. The dot indicates how many babies were born and the week they were born. The middle line of the vertical and horizontal box plots shows the average weight for each group. In the control group, 21.9 percent of newborns were considered to be small. This compares with 55 infants in the Mediterranean diet (14%) and 61 in the stress relief group (15.6%). 

Women asked to follow the Mediterranean diet received two-hours of monthly individual and group education sessions, personalised advice and recipes. They were also given two litres of extra-virgin olive oil and 450g walnuts per month for free. The group was encouraged to eat at least five servings of whole grains, three of vegetables and dairy products, as well as two of fresh fruit each day. They were also asked to have three servings a week of legumes, nuts, fish and white meat

Two-hours per month of individual or group education, personalized advice and recipe sharing were provided to women who wanted to adopt the Mediterranean diet. Two litres extra-virgin oil was given to each participant and they were provided with 450g of walnuts every month. It was also suggested that the group eat five to six servings each of whole grains and three portions of dairy products. A week’s supply of white, legumes and fish was required.

The women in the stress reduction group participated in an eight-week course that included weekly 2.5-hour sessions and one full-day session. They were also asked to follow daily 45-minute meditation sessions which focused on mindfulness, mindful yoga, body awareness and group discussion

Women in the group that focuses on stress reduction participated in an 8-week course. It consisted of two 2.5-hour sessions per week and one full-day. Participants were required to participate in daily 45 minute meditation sessions that focussed on mindful yoga and body awareness. They also had to engage in group discussions.

Researchers found that lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition or high stress levels may increase the risk of having a baby who is too small.

Because they can be associated with inflammation of placenta, these may also cause other problems during pregnancy.

Between February 2017 to October 2019, 1,221 pregnant women were recruited at Barcelona’s hospital. They were between 19 and 23 weeks and high-risk of having small babies.

Two-hour sessions of individual or group education, personalized advice, and recipe suggestions were provided to women who requested the diet.

You also got two litres (extra-virgin) olive oil per month and 450g of walnuts for your free time.

What exactly is the Mediterranean diet? 

The Mediterranean diet is a combination of traditional Mediterranean lifestyle habits and healthy eating habits from people living near the Mediterranean Sea (e.g., France, Greece, Italy, Spain).

Because the Mediterranean diet is not universal, it can be defined in many ways.

However, the majority of it is rich in vegetables, fruits and legumes as well nuts, seeds, grains, beans, cereals, oils, unsaturated fats like olive oil, and other healthy foods. This diet usually has a very low amount of meat and milk foods.

Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can improve your health.

Make your Mediterranean diet even more Mediterranean by using: 

  • Having a lot of starchy food, like bread and pasta 
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables 
  • including fish in your diet 
  • Consume less meat 
  • Olive oil is one example of a product made with plant and vegetable oils. 

Source: NHS 

It was recommended that the group eat at most five whole grains and three servings each of vegetables, dairy products, and fresh fruits every day.

A request was made that they consume at least three portions of legumes and fish per week.

Participants in the Stress Reduction Group completed an 8-week-long course, which included 2.5-hour weekly sessions and one day of full-day training.

Participants were required to attend daily, 45-minute meditation sessions that focussed on mindful yoga and body awareness.

The remaining third received regular care during pregnancy.

According to JAMA results, 21.9 percent of the newborns in control were underweight.

This compares to only 55 people in the Mediterranean diet (14%) and just 61 in the Stress Reduction group (15.6%).

Other adverse outcomes were also measured by researchers, such as premature births and preeclampsia.

In the standard care group, 26.2 percent of the newborns suffered from one of these conditions, while 73 (16.6%) in the group who changed their diet and 76% (19.5%) in the group which managed their stress experienced it.

The researchers, led by Professor Eduard Gratacós, an expert in foetal medicine, said having a baby that is small for its gestational age is associated with increased placental inflammation, oxidative stress and aging.

They stated that the antioxidative properties of Mediterranean diets are linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties.

Increasing maternal stress has been linked to a higher rate of infants growing too small, and higher levels cortisol levels and inflammation-promoting cells.

‘The stress reduction program was associated with improvements in anxiety and well-being scales and with increased estimated activity of a cortisol-deactivating enzyme compared with the other study groups,’ according to the study.