Can dietary phytophenols improve pregnancy outcomes?

Project Details

Preterm birth and GDM are seemingly disparate conditions but linked by common pathways in their pathogenesis. They affect up to 20% of all pregnancies but have an impact that extends well beyond pregnancy and childbirth, with the potential for lifelong morbidity or mortality for both mother and baby. Despite the enormous health-impact of both these conditions, little progress has been made with interventions aimed at prevention. Rates of preterm birth remain static, whilst GDM is increasing in parallel with the obesity epidemic. A safe and effective intervention that can reduce the burden of preterm birth and GDM would be a major public health initiative.

There is increasing volume and quality of evidence that high fruit and vegetable intake in pregnancy is associated with a decreased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes . For example, consumption of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet) in pregnant women with GDM had beneficial effects on their metabolic profile. Many of these beneficial properties have been attributed to the potent anti-inflammatory properties of phytophenols. There are, however, no studies that have assessed dietary phytophenols in preterm birth or GDM.

In this project, in vitro and in vivo studies will be used to test the hypothesis that dietary phytophenols can delay preterm birth and prevent the development of GDM, and improve fetal outcome in both these conditions.



  • Norman Beischer Medical Research Foundation
  • Diabetes Australia
  • Rebecca L Cooper Foumndation
  • Endocrine Society of Australia

Research Publications

Morwood, C. J.; Lappas, M. The citrus flavone nobiletin reduces pro-inflammatory and pro-labour mediators in fetal membranes and myometrium: implications for preterm birth. PLoS One 2014; 9(9) e108390

Wall, C.; Lim, R.; Poljak, M.; Lappas, M. Dietary flavonoids as therapeutics for preterm birth: luteolin and kaempferol suppress inflammation in human gestational tissues in vitro Oxid Med Cell Longev (2013) 2013

Lim, R.; Barker, G.; Wall, C. A.; Lappas, M. Dietary phytophenols curcumin, naringenin and apigenin reduce infection-induced inflammatory and contractile pathways in human placenta, foetal membranes and myometrium Mol Hum Reprod (2013) 19 7 451-62.

Research Group

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine, Women's Health, Infectious Diseases and Immunity

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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