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expert reaction to study looking at effect of Mediterranean diet or mindfulness-based stress reduction during pregnancy on child neurodevelopment

A study published in JAMA Network Open looks at the effect of a Mediterranean diet or mindfulness-based stress reduction during pregnancy on child neurodevelopment.


Dr Duane Mellor, Registered Dietitian and Senior Lecturer, Aston Medical School, Aston University, said:

“This is an interesting study which builds on a study previously done in a smaller group in Spain. It looked at the effect on infants of their mother being assigned to either a Mediterranean diet (including being given extra virgin olive oil and walnuts), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes or usual care. Those whose mothers were randomised to the Mediterranean diet had a higher chance of improved better cognitive score and social-emotional wellbeing at the age of two compared to those receiving usual care, whereas those who were assigned to the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes had infants who were more likely to have better social-emotional well-being compared to infants receiving usual care. 

“The findings of this need to be treated with caution as over half of those women who enrolled onto the study did not complete the study, many because they declined to complete the study or moved away and cannot be contacted. It is unknown if the infants from these pregnancies would have demonstrated the same outcomes. It is also not known if the change in diet or mindfulness directly led to the changes observed or as the study was not blinded and participants knew what was happening, that they might have become more motivated and this led to other beneficial lifestyle changes which continued after childbirth and could explain the outcomes.

“It is important that during pregnancy that women and their families look after their health, including eating healthily and looking after their mental health and wellbeing. A Mediterranean style diet is one way of doing that, but it is important to eat healthy foods that you enjoy and not add to potential stress you feel by worrying about what you eat too much.”



Effect of a Mediterranean Diet or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction During Pregnancy on Child Neurodevelopment’ by Francesca Crovetto et al. was published in JAMA Network Open at 16:00 UK time Tuesday 22 August 2023.

DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.30255



Declared interests

Dr Duane Mellor: “No conflicts of interest to declare.”

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