High quality diet may lower risk of pregnancy complications, study finds


A new study linked a high quality diet, determined through the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), during pregnancy to a lower risk of fetal growth restriction (FGR) and hypertensive disorders.

The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers from the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine assessed the diets of 762 pregnant women in their third trimester who had completed a dietary health survey determining participant HEI.  The HEI is a measurement of dietary quality designed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scored on a numeric scale from zero to 100 that analyzes 13 health contributors. The healthier the diet, the higher the score. Researchers observed the connection between participants’ HEI score and gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, and large for gestational age (LGA) infants.

The study’s results showed of the 762 participants, 128 of them (17 percent) had an HEI score of 70 or above, whereas 634 participants (83 percent) scored below. Researchers found that those with an HEI score above 70 after they accounted for obesity and hypertension, were 67 percent less likely to have FGR and 54 percent less likely to have high blood pressure during their pregnancy. The study found no association between diet and gestational diabetes or LGA infants.

This study indicates that there’s a link between a healthy diet during pregnancy and FGR and high blood pressure. The study also presents HEI as an effective tool to determine diet quality that helps prevent pregnancy complications. This study is relevant to integrative healthcare professionals working with pregnant women trying to reduce their risk of FGR and high blood pressure.