Study: You can diet while pregnant if obese

A study in BMJ reports that the risk for serious complications, such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes and premature birth can be safely reduced even in overweight and obese pregnant women by following a healthy calorie controlled diet during pregnancy.

Over half of the UK’s female population of reproductive ages is overweight or obese, and up to 40% of European and American women gain more than the recommended weight in pregnancy, which has been associated with numerous serious health problems. Health professionals believe that a woman’s pregnancy is the perfect time to discuss weight management, given that pregnant women are generally more motivated to make changes that benefit both themselves and their baby.

Research leader, Dr Shakila Thangaratinam from Queen Mary’s University of London assessed the impact of diet, exercise, or both on weight gain during pregnancy and any adverse effects on the expectant mother and their unborn baby by analyzing data from over 7,000 women obtained from 44 randomized controlled trials. The team accounted for the study’s designs and quality for minimum bias.

They found that weight management interventions during pregnancy proved effective in reducing the mother’s weight gain, and that diets achieved the largest average weight loss of almost 4 kg in comparison with only 0.7 kg for exercise and 1 kg for a combination of both, diet and exercise. They also discovered that diet was the most effective option in preventing pregnancy complications, including pre-eclampsia, diabetes, high blood pressure and premature birth, although the researchers highlight the fact that the overall evidence rating for these significant results was classed as ‘low to very low’.

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