Women with an improper diet are more likely to have babies with heart abnormalities, a study conducted by the University of Utah, School of Medicine has concluded.
The study surveyed 10,000 women whose babies were born with heart issues and 9, 500 women with healthy infants, between October 1997 and December 2009. The respondents were questioned about their diets and it was shown that those whose eating habits were in the top 25% in terms of healthiness faced a much lower risk of giving birth to babies with heart anomalies.
The medical team who analyzed the study data reported that future mothers with health-conscious diets reduced their babies’ risk of being born with tetralogy of Fallot (a rare heart defect impeding blood from carrying enough oxygen) by 37%. Also, they also decreased the children’s risk of having atrial septal defect (a hole in the wall separating the heart’s chambers) by 23%.
These findings are particularly important nowadays, when congenital heart defects affect 1% of the newborns in the US, causing approximately 25% of the infant deaths related to birth defects. Such medical issues are common, life-threatening and difficult to prevent without identifying the possible risk factors, which makes research in the field highly valuable.
In this recent study, each mother described her diet in the year before her pregnancy. Afterwards, the researchers compared it with the Mediterranean Diet and the Diet Quality Index for Pregnancy, the recommended diet plan for pregnant women. Babies were the healthiest when their mothers’ diet included vegetables, nuts, fruits, fish and whole grains, while limiting the intake of sweets, meat and dairy. Also, folic acid, calcium and iron were directly linked with ensuring better health for the infants.
The study data supports the theory that women should have healthy eating habits even before conceiving, because the fetus can be exposed to birth defects at an early stage. If the expectant mother is in good health, then her baby has a better chance to withstand environmental or genetic factors related to heart issues.
Dr. Lorenzo Botto, Professor of Pediatrics and the study’s lead author, explained, `The more you went up in diet quality, the less the risk for severe congenital heart anomalies.’
The study was published on August 24th, in the `Archives of Disease in Childhood’ journal (Fetal & Neonatal Edition), as part of the federally-funded National Birth Defects Prevention Study. It was inspired by an earlier research indicating that proper diet lowers the risk of birth defects like spina bifida and cleft palate.
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