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Healthy Diet Before Pregnancy Reduces Birth Defects

healthy diet reduces birth defects

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may prevent certain birth defects.

A new study finds that a diet rich in nutrients may be a key in reducing the number of birth defects.

According to MedPage Today, Stanford University researchers found that the quality of a mother’s diet in the year prior to her pregnancy “significantly predicted” risk of defects such as spina bifida or cleft lip:

“The highest quality diets were associated with up to 51% lower risk of anencephaly, 34% reduced risk of cleft lip, and 26% lower odds of cleft palate compared with the poorest diets.  These links were stronger than seen with folic acid or other nutrients individually …”

In other words, it was the overall diet that mattered, not just specific supplementation of certain nutrients like folic acid, though the researchers still recommend such supplementation.  Past studies have focused on individual nutrients and whether they impact the incidence of neural tube and orofacial birth defects.  This one, however, took a look at the complete diets of more than 3,400 women whose children were born with a birth defect and compared them to the food choices of more than 6,000 women whose children do not have a birth defect.

The healthiest eaters, and those women least likely to have children born with birth defects like spin bifida or anencephaly, were those whose diet matched most closely with either the low-fat, high-fiber USDA recommended diet or the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, healthy fats like olive oil, and lean meats like fish and poultry.

FOX News senior managing health editor and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center, Dr. Manny Alvarez says, “This finding is consistent with other findings in regards to the effects of a good diet and a healthy baby it’s very important for women to understand that many of these anomalies can be prevented. Pre-pregnancy weight management and pre-pregnancy diet style can make a huge difference, not only in preventing disease to newborn, but also in improving a woman’s chances of getting pregnant .”

So, if you’re planning on getting pregnant within the next year, it certainly couldn’t hurt to try and eat as healthy as you possibly can both prior to and during the pregnancy.
For more on this study, visit the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

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