Prepregnancy plant-based diets and risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2023 Aug 19:S0002-9378(23)00548-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2023.07.057. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Plant-based diets have been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in nonpregnant adults, but specific evidence for their effects on risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy is scarce.

Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the prospective association between adherence to plant-based diets before pregnancy and the risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. We hypothesized that women with higher adherence to plant-based diets would have a lower risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

Study design: We followed 11,459 parous women (16,780 singleton pregnancies) without chronic diseases, a history of preeclampsia, and cancers who participated in the Nurses' Health Study II (1991-2009), which was a prospective cohort study. Diet was assessed every 4 years using a validated food frequency questionnaire from which we calculated the plant-based diet index (higher score indicates higher adherence) to evaluate the health associations of plant-based diets among participants while accounting for the quality of plant-based foods. Participants self-reported hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. We estimated the relative risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in relation to plant-based diet index adherence in quintiles using generalized estimating equations log-binomial regression while adjusting for potential confounders and accounting for repeated pregnancies for the same woman.

Results: The mean (standard deviation) age at first in-study pregnancy was 35 (4) years. A total of 1033 cases of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including 482 cases of preeclampsia (2.9%) and 551 cases of gestational hypertension (3.3%) were reported. Women in the highest quintile of plant-based diet index were significantly associated with a lower risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy than women in the lowest quintile (relative risk, 0.76; 95% confidence interval, 0.62-0.93). There was an inverse dose-response relationship between plant-based diet index and risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. The multivariable-adjusted relative risk (95% confidence interval) of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy for women in increasing quintiles of plant-based diet index were 1 (ref), 0.93 (0.78-1.12), 0.86 (0.72-1.03), 0.84 (0.69-1.03), and 0.76 (0.62-0.93) with a significant linear trend across quintiles (P trend=.005). This association was slightly stronger for gestational hypertension (relative risk, 0.77; 95% confidence interval, 0.60-0.99) than for preeclampsia (relative risk, 0.80; 95% confidence interval, 0.61-1.04). Mediation analysis suggested that body mass index evaluation for dietary assessment and pregnancy explained 39% (95% confidence interval, 15%-70%]) of the relation between plant-based diet index and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and 48% (95% confidence interval, 12%-86%]) of the relation between plant-based diet index and gestational hypertension.

Conclusion: Higher adherence to plant-based diets was associated with a lower risk of developing hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Much of the benefit seems to be related to improved weight control.

Keywords: gestational hypertension; hypertensive disorders of pregnancy; plant-based diet; preconceptual care; preeclampsia.