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Pregnant Women's Diet Could Be Good for Babies

Update Date: May 24, 2012 12:49 AM EDT

Pregnant women are always told that pregnancy is not the time to diet and in fact are encouraged to eat as much as they feel like so that the moms-to-be do not deprive their developing babies of much needed nutrients.

However, a recent study published in the online edition of the BMJ suggests that dieting during pregnancy could actually be beneficial in case of some women. It suggests that not only dieting is safe, but it can also prevent a lot of complications during pregnancy.

Apparently, obese women are at greater risk of complications, pre-matured delivery, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. Also, the mother's obesity is a risk factor for childhood obesity, reports The Globe and Mail.

Obesity is only becoming more and more common among women of childbearing age, and it is estimated that an alarming 40 percent of women exceed the recommended weight gain during pregnancy, says the report.

The recent study observed the results of 44 controlled studies with 7000 (mostly obese and overweight) participants, including those diagnosed with gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, and investigated the impact of diet, exercise, or both on the mother and the fetus.

The researchers observed as to how much weight was put on by the mother during the course of pregnancy and if it led to any complications.

For the diet method, the participants were advised on their diets and were asked to limit their calories intake, balance protein, carbohydrate and fat, and eating unprocessed foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils. The to-be mothers also maintained a daily food diary.

It seems, the results suggested that women who were put into the diet alone method lost weight most effectively when compared to women who were put in the other methods, i.e exercise only, or the two combined.

While diet only reduced a pregnant woman's weight by 8.8 pounds, an exercise only regime resulted in an average reduction in weight gain of 1.5 pounds. A combination of diet and exercise produced an average reduction of 2.2 pounds, says the report.

Also, calorie-controlled diet reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia by 33 percent. It also reduced the risks of gestational diabetes, gestational high blood pressure and early delivery significantly.

"Weight control is difficult but this study shows that by carefully advising women on weight management methods, especially diet, we can reduce weight gain during pregnancy," lead researcher Dr. Shakila Thangaratinam, a clinical senior lecturer and consultant obstetrician at Queen Mary, University of London, said in a news release according to

The study also defied the common belief that controlling diet during pregnancy can result in low birth weight. The study suggested that the babies' weights were unaffected by controlling calorie intake. The critical component for a healthy pregnancy is nutrition.

Thus, the findings of the study suggest that if advised carefully on diet, excess weight gain can be prevented, hence reducing risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery.

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