Mediterranean diet could help pregnant women avoid depression 

Pregnant women who ate a Mediterranean-style diet were less likely to show symptoms of depression, according to a recent study led by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago. 

The research used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and focused on 540 pregnant women who gave information about their diets and filled out a survey about their mental health. The analysis showed that the pregnant women who largely adhered to a Mediterranean diet — one that emphasizes whole grains, fruit, vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and moderate amounts of fatty fish — were less likely to report that they had symptoms of depression. This was true even when controlling for sociodemographic factors such as race, education level and income.

The findings are important, the researchers explain, because about 12% of pregnant women in the U.S. are affected by prenatal depression, which increases the risk of adverse birth outcomes, maternal mortality and postpartum depression. Additionally, some pregnant women are hesitant to take antidepressant medications, making diet a particularly compelling tool in addressing depression for this group. 

“This relationship merits further examination, given the public health significance of promoting mental wellness among pregnant women,” the authors write. 

The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition. UIC co-authors on the paper are Vanessa Oddo, Crussie Moise, Beatriz Peñalver Bernabé, Pauline Maki, Mary Dawn Koenig, Lacey Wisslead-Pezley, Dr. Yinglin Xia and Lisa Tussing-Humphreys.  

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