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Mediterranean Diet: Prenatal Benefits?

Study Suggests Diet by Pregnant Moms Can Reduce Allergy Risk for Their Kids
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Mediterranean Diet and Allergic Disease continued...

The women completed food-frequency questionnaires during pregnancy, and they reported on their children's diets later on. They were also asked about their children's allergy and asthma symptoms and the children were tested for reactions to six common allergens after age 6.

Roughly a third of the mothers were considered to have had a low-quality Mediterranean diet while pregnant, while two-thirds were judged to have had high-quality Mediterranean diets.

Based on this analysis, eating a high-quality Mediterranean diet during pregnancy was associated with an 88% reduction in persistent wheeze risk among offspring and a 45% reduction in allergic disease risk.

Chatzi tells WebMD that the findings must be duplicated, and more research is needed to understand why a Mediterranean diet may be protective.

"We know that fruits, vegetables, and legumes are high in antioxidants, and there is evidence that antioxidants protect against inflammatory diseases like asthma and allergies," she says.

Safe for Pregnant Women?

But it is not clear if eating a largely plant-based diet, with protein derived mainly from fish and eggs, is a good idea for pregnant women and their unborn babies.

A 1994 study found that pregnant women who followed the diet got only about a third of the daily recommended intake of iron.

Greer says the single best thing an expectant mom can do to reduce her child's risk for allergic disease is to plan to breastfeed exclusively for at least four months.

That was the main recommendation of the AAP nutrition committee in its new guidelines for preventing allergic disease, released just last week.

"The best evidence we have says breastfeeding helps protect high-risk children against asthma and allergies," he says.

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