Pregnant women on Mediterranean diet had kids with higher cognitive scores

by Ella

The age-old adage “you are what you eat” gains deeper resonance with a recent study highlighting the profound impact of dietary choices on women of childbearing age. Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy isn’t an open license to indulge in any and all cravings. According to emerging findings, the nutritional choices during pregnancy can significantly influence the developmental trajectory of offspring.


Mai Villanos Kenst, residing in Calabasas, approached her first pregnancy without unusual cravings but with a determination to avoid specific foods. She shares, “I just had an aversion to salad and cheese. I just could not take it in.” Now, during her second pregnancy, her preferences have shifted, revealing a newfound affinity for salads. This transition aligns fortuitously with the Mediterranean diet, wherein leafy greens occupy a prominent position.


A groundbreaking study originating from Spain and unveiled on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open underscores the potency of the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy. This eating regimen, marked by its incorporation of wholesome ingredients, reportedly contributed to substantial improvements in cognitive, social, and emotional development among toddlers. The research cohort comprised mothers who adhered to the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy, juxtaposed with those who did not adopt this dietary pattern.


Dr. Ira Wardono, Chief of Pediatrics at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, elaborates on the study, revealing that it encompassed around 1,200 mothers at high risk during pregnancy. These mothers were segmented into three groups to explore avenues for enhancing prenatal care. One cluster engaged in mindfulness activities such as yoga and meditation, the second embraced the Mediterranean diet, while the third underwent standard prenatal care. Notably, the children of mothers who received a supply of olive oil, walnuts, and nutritional guidance displayed marked developmental advantages.


Dr. Wardono shares the compelling outcomes: “They found that their child have not only better social, emotional well-being, but also cognitive function at 2 years of age.” At the age of 2, the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet during pregnancy seem to manifest in the cognitive domain, a testament to the impact of the diet on prenatal brain development.

The Mediterranean diet’s association with brain development is rooted in its nutritional components. Rich in beneficial fats, the diet fosters optimal brain growth. “They have good fat, and good fat is needed in brain development,” Dr. Wardono emphasizes, elucidating the mechanism underlying the observed benefits.

Inspired by these revelations, Mai Villanos Kenst plans to embrace a diet abundant in nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and wholesome proteins and fats for the remainder of her pregnancy. She notes, “If I need to change for a handful of months for my kid to be better, why not? So I think I have time.”

Remarkably, the study also uncovered comparable benefits among mothers who engaged in meditation and mindfulness exercises, reinforcing the holistic approach to prenatal health. Consequently, healthcare professionals emphasize the importance of not only sound nutrition but also stress reduction during pregnancy.

While prenatal supplements play a role in delivering essential omega-3 fatty acids, Dr. Wardono underscores the enduring significance of consuming whole, fresh foods for optimal prenatal health. In a world where every choice echoes into the next generation, the power of a thoughtfully curated diet during pregnancy stands illuminated.


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