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Maternal diet before pregnancy could lower heart abnormalities in newborn

Posted:  Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Congenital defects in babies are common and costly and statistics find that 1 in 4 children with such defects may even die. Now, a research finds that a relatively healthy maternal diet before pregnancy could be linked to a lower rate of heart abnormalities in children at birth.

The researchers questioned around 19,000 women, all part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, about the quantity and quality of their diet in the year leading up to their pregnancy to arrive at this result. Their diet quality was assessed using two validated scoring systems namely the Mediterranean Diet Score and the Diet Quality Index for Pregnancy (DQI-P). The results were published in Archives of Disease in Childhood (Fetal & Neonatal Edition).

Of the women studied, half had given birth to healthy babies and half delivered babies with major heart abnormalities at birth between 1997 and 2009. Mothers ranked in the top 25% (quartile) of diet quality, as assessed by the DQI-P, had a significantly lower risk of having a baby with certain heart defects than those in the bottom 25%.

In addition to this, the researchers noted that a better diet quality was associated with a 37% lower risk of tetralogy of Fallot and a 23% lower risk of atrial septal defects. Tetralogy of Fallot is an abnormality leading to dangerously low oxygen levels in the blood going to the rest of the body. Atrial septal defects refer to holes in the wall of the septum.

Many studies have found better maternal diets to be associated with prevention of some other birth defects, including cleft palate and neural tube defects. However, the researchers caution that further studies are required to corroborate the results of this observational study. Good maternal diet is attributed to a host of provide a host of benefit to the mother and the child. Prevention of congenital defects could be an added bonus and motivation for mothers.

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