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Mother’s Diet Prior to Conception Linked to Preterm Birth

Update Date: May 24, 2014 09:50 AM EDT

When a baby is born prematurely, risk of complications for the baby and the mother increases dramatically. Due to the dangers of preterm birth, researchers have focused on finding possible causes of it in order identify and create better preventive measures. In a new study, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia examined women's diets and found that a poor diet prior to pregnancy was linked to an increased risk of preterm birth.

"Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant disease and death and occurs in approximately one in 10 pregnancies globally. Anything we can do to better understand the conditions that lead to preterm birth will be important in helping to improve survival and long-term health outcomes for children," said the lead author of the paper, Dr. Jessica Grieger, Posdoctoral Research Fellow with the Robinson Research Institute, based at the Lyell McEwin Hospital reported in the press release.

For this study, the team from the University's Robinson Research Institute analyzed the diet habits of more than 300 women from Southern Australia. The researchers found that women who consumed more protein and fruit before getting pregnant had a lower risk of giving birth prematurely. Women who ate foods high in fat and sugar, on the other hand, had a 50 percent higher risk of preterm birth.

"In our study, women who ate protein-rich foods including lean meats, fish and chicken, as well as fruit, whole grains and vegetables, had significantly lower risk of preterm birth. On the other hand, women who consumed mainly discretionary foods, such as takeaway, potato chips, cakes, biscuits, and other foods high in saturated fat and sugar were more likely to have babies born preterm," Dr. Grieger stated. "It is important to consume a healthy diet before as well as during pregnancy to support the best outcomes for the mum and baby."

The researchers reported that since eating a healthy diet is good for the body in general, people should strive to eat better for their body. The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition.

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