Healthy Diet Equals Lower Risks of Birth Defects

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In a report published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, it was revealed that food choices, especially those healthy and nutritious foods are linked to lower risks of birth defects. This is true especially in terms of orofacial defects like cleft lip and palate, neural tube defects and the like.

According to the researchers, although folic acid is not able to prevent all forms of birth defects, the said nutrient has been proven to be effective in preventing neural tube defects. They said that, “Nutrition research on birth defects had tended to focus on one nutrient (or nutritional factor) at a time. However, the reality of nutrition is much more complex.”

Dr. Suzan Carmichael and colleagues from the Stanford University California, used data gathered from the National Birth Defects Prevention in order to “examine whether better maternal diet quality was associated with reduced risk for selected birth defects.” The data gathered was obtained from telephone interviews among pregnant women. Nearly 2,500 cases have orofacial clefts, 936 have neural tube defects, as well as 6,000 plus who have no defects at all. In the survey, the mothers shared their food intake and diet choices. The researchers created two types of diet indices that considered the US Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid.

During their study, they found out that “Increasing diet quality base on either index was associated with reduced risks for the birth defects studied. Most mothers of controls (children without birth defects) were non-Hispanic white and had more than a high school education; 19 percent smokes, 38 percent drank alcohol, and 78 percent took folic-acid-containing supplements during early pregnancy; and 16 percent were obese.

Women who were Hispanic had substantially higher values for the DQI and MDS, whereas values were lower among women with less education and women who smoked, did not take supplements, or were obese.”

They also concluded in their stud that “based on two diet quality indices, higher maternal diet quality in the year before pregnancy was associated with lower risk for neural tube defects and orofacial clefts. This finding persisted even after adjusting for multiple potential confounders such as maternal intake of vitamin/mineral supplements. These results suggest that dietary approaches could lead to further reduction in risks of major birth defects and complement existing efforts to fortify foods and encourage periconceptional multivitamin use.”

In another report by Dr. David Jacobs, he said that even though folic acid has been known to be beneficial in fetal development, recent studies have found out that supplemental folic acid may help among elder people, “The importance of the findings of Carmichael et al lies in showing that women obtain benefit from the consumption of a high-quality diet, beyond the benefits derived through grain fortification. This raises the question of whether a high-quality diet alone may be sufficient to prevent NTDs (neural tube defects) ‚Äì a strategy that would also remove the potential harm from fortification.

The lesson from the article by Carmichael el al is an important one: people, including women of childbearing age, should eat good. Reduction of NTDs may be achievable by diet alone, at the same time reducing potential risk for other chronic disease in the rest of the population.”




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