A healthy diet that is rich in fibre can reduce the risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy and promote the well-being of both the mother and child, says a study.
According to researchers of University of Sydney, plant-based fibre is broken down in the gut by bacteria, part of the process that influences the immune system.
“The mother’s gut bacteria and diet appear to be crucial to promoting a healthy pregnancy,” professor Ralph Nanan, University of Sydney, was quoted as saying.
The study found that reduced levels of acetate, which is mainly produced by fibre fermentation in the gut, is associated with the common and serious pregnancy-related condition preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia not only affects the mother but also the baby’s immune development while in the womb, with some evidence suggesting higher risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases later in life. It also affects the development of thymus, an important foetal immune organ, located behind the breastbone. The study found that foetuses in preeclamptic pregnancies had a much smaller thymus than children from healthy pregnancies. Promoting specific metabolic products of gut bacteria during pregnancy can be a effective way to prevent these conditions.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.