Mediterranean Diet Might Help Prevent Birth Defects
Pregnant women with a healthy diet decrease their risk of having a child with birth defects like facial clefts and spina bifida, according to a recent study from Standford University. In the past, studies have tested how being deficient in a single nutrient can affect the risk birth defects. For instance, other studies have shown that taking folic acid supplements or eating grains fortified with folic acid decreases the risk of neural tube defects. Since nutrition is more complex than a single nutrient, this Standford study examined the entire diet of pregnant women.
The study compared the mothers of 936 children with neural tube defects, 2,475 with facial clefts, and the mothers of 6,147 children with no birth defects. Researchers interviewed mothers about their diet during pregnancy. Mothers with diets similar to the Mediterranean Diet were less likely to have babies with anencephaly, cleft lips, cleft palates, and spina bifida. The Mediterranean Diet is one rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish in addition to being light on fats and sugar.
Researchers pointed out that although taking supplements is beneficial and sometimes necessary, eating real food is still the best way to receive nutrients and vitamins. Food interacts in complex ways that just can’t be replicated by supplements alone.
Carmichael SL, et al. Reduced risks of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts with higher diet quality. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine 2011. DOI: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.185.