Diet high in fruits, veggies could lower preterm delivery risk: study
Researchers say regular exercise and a healthy diet increase the chance of a healthy delivery. (Marilyn Barbone / shutterstock.com)
Published Thursday, March 6, 2014 11:16AM EST
A new study published in the British Medical Journal found women who consume a "prudent" diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains have a lower risk of preterm delivery.
Preterm delivery is defined as a birth between 22 and 37 weeks of pregnancy and is associated with adverse health effects.
Building on previous evidence concerning maternal diet and unborn children, researchers in Norway, Iceland and Sweden used data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study to analyze preterm births among 66,000 women between 2002 and 2008.
Participants who successfully delivered one baby, were diabetes-free and completed a validated food frequency questionnaire on dietary habits from the first four to five months of pregnancy were included in the study. Factors believed to affect results include mother's age, education and history of preterm births.
Researchers identified three distinct dietary patterns:
- "Prudent" - This diet consisted of vegetables, fruits, oils, whole grain cereals, fibre-rich bread, poultry and water
- "Western" - This included sweet and salty snacks, desserts, white bread and processed meat products
- "Traditional" - This diet featured cooked vegetables, low fat milk, potatoes, fish and gravy.
Out of the 66,000 women, 3,505, or 5.3 per cent, had preterm deliveries. The research team found the "prudent" diet linked to lowered risk of preterm delivery, particularly among women having their first baby. A reduced risk was linked to the "traditional" diet as well.
Researchers note pregnant women should increase their intake of "prudent" diet foods, saying this is more important than a total exclusion of processed food, fast food, snacks and junk food.