Maternal Mediterranean-Style Diet Adherence during Pregnancy and Metabolomic Signature in Postpartum Plasma: Findings from the Boston Birth Cohort

Xiaoyu Che, Xiumei Hong, Susan Gross, Colleen Pearson, Tami Bartell, Xiaobin Wang, Guoying Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet (MSD) are well observed, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Metabolomic profiling offers a systematic approach for identifying which metabolic biomarkers and pathways might be affected by an MSD. Objectives: This study aimed to identify postpartum plasma metabolites that are associated with MSD adherence during pregnancy and to further test whether these identified metabolites may vary by maternal characteristics. Methods: We analyzed data from 1410 mothers enrolled in the Boston Birth Cohort (BBC). A maternal food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) was administered and epidemiologic information was obtained via an in-person standard questionnaire interview within 24–72 h postpartum. Maternal clinical information was extracted from electronic medical records. A Mediterranean-style diet score (MSDS) was calculated using responses to the FFQ. Metabolomic profiling in postpartum plasma was conducted by liquid chromatography–MS. Linear regression models were used to assess the associations of each metabolite with an MSDS, adjusting for covariates. Results: Among the 380 postpartum plasma metabolites analyzed, 24 were associated with MSDS during pregnancy (false discovery rate < 0.05). Of 24 MSDS-associated metabolites, 19 were lipids [for example, triacylglycerols, phosphatidylcholines (PCs), PC plasmalogen, phosphatidylserine, and phosphatidylethanolamine]; others were amino acids (methionine sulfoxide and threonine), tropane (nor-psi-tropine), vitamin (vitamin A), and nucleotide (adenosine). The association of adenosine and methionine sulfoxide with MSDS differed by race (P-interaction = 0.033) and maternal overweight or obesity status (P-interaction = 0.021), respectively. Conclusions: In the BBC, we identified 24 postpartum plasma metabolites associated with MSDS during pregnancy. The associations of the 2 metabolites varied by maternal race and BMI. This study provides a new insight into dietary effects on health under the skin. More studies are needed to better understand the metabolic pathways underlying the short- and long-term health benefits of an MSD during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)846-855
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Mediterranean diet
  • dietary patterns
  • metabolomics
  • plasma biomarkers
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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