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Study links diet with premature births

Pregnant women who eat a cholesterol-lowering diet may be reducing their risk of delivering prematurely, a study reports.
/ Source: Reuters

Pregnant women who stick to a cholesterol-lowering diet may reduce their risk of delivering prematurely, Norwegian investigators report.

“These results indicate that dietary intervention in pregnancy can modify cardiovascular risk factors in pregnancy and may result in health benefits for mother and child,” Dr. Janette Khoury from the National Hospital in Oslo and colleagues write in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

They researched the effects of a cholesterol-curbing diet on levels of lipids in maternal, cord, and neonatal blood, as well as on pregnancy outcome, in 290 nonsmoking pregnant women ages 21 to 38 years.

From gestational week 17 to 20 until birth, the women either maintained their usual diet or adopted a diet rich in fish, low-fat meats and dairy products, oils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

Compared with the usual diet, the cholesterol-lowering diet led to a modest reduction in maternal cholesterol levels.

Moreover, the cholesterol-lowering diet was associated with a lower risk of preterm delivery. Only one of 141 women on this diet delivered before 37 weeks gestation, compared with 11 of 149 women on the usual diet.

In this study, “lowering LDL concentrations, together with other dietary changes in the intervention group, may have lowered the risk of premature delivery,” Khoury noted in comments to Reuters Health.

“We found that LDL (“bad“) cholesterol concentrations at baseline tended to be associated with premature delivery,” she said. “Thus, the difference in total and LDL cholesterol observed in our study may have contributed to the reduction in preterm birth.”

Khoury’s team hopes the results encourage future larger studies to clarify the role of a cholesterol-lowering diet in the prevention of preterm delivery in both low- and high-risk pregnancies.

“Though the intervention diet had no adverse effects, future larger studies are needed before we can recommend the diet for the prevention of preterm birth,” Khoury emphasized.