Plant-Based and Plant-Rich Diet Patterns during Gestation: Beneficial Effects and Possible Shortcomings

Adv Nutr. 2015 Sep 15;6(5):581-91. doi: 10.3945/an.115.009126. Print 2015 Sep.


Environmental and lifestyle factors are known to play an important role during gestation, determining newborns' health status and influencing their risk of being subject to certain noncommunicable diseases later in life. In particular, maternal nutritional patterns characterized by a low intake of plant-derived foods could increase the risk of gestation-related issues, such as preeclampsia and pregravid obesity, increase genotoxicant susceptibility, and contribute to the onset of pediatric diseases. In particular, the risk of pediatric wheeze, diabetes, neural tube defects, orofacial clefts, and some pediatric tumors seems to be reduced by maternal intake of adequate amounts of vegetables, fruits, and selected antioxidants. Nevertheless, plant-based diets, like any other diet, if improperly balanced, could be deficient in some specific nutrients that are particularly relevant during gestation, such as n-3 (ω-3) fatty acids, vitamin B-12, iron, zinc, and iodine, possibly affecting the offspring's health state. Here we review the scientific literature in this field, focusing specifically on observational studies in humans, and highlight protective effects elicited by maternal diets enriched in plant-derived foods and possible issues related to maternal plant-based diets.

Keywords: diabetes; gestation; human; pediatric diseases; pediatric tumors; plant-based diets; preeclampsia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Adducts / drug effects
  • Diabetes, Gestational / diet therapy
  • Diabetes, Gestational / prevention & control
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Mutagens / toxicity
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Pre-Eclampsia / diet therapy
  • Pre-Eclampsia / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vegetables


  • DNA Adducts
  • Micronutrients
  • Mutagens