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Poor Diet Increases Preterm Birth Rate

Update Date: May 27, 2014 09:01 PM EDT
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Eating junk food during pregnancy may increase the risk of preterm birth, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute found that eating a poor diet before conception increased the risk of preterm birth by 50 percent.

The latest study, which involved 300 South Australians women, is the first of its kind to evaluate diet before pregnancy conception and its association with outcomes at birth.

The latest study revealed that women who consistently ate high-protein foods and fruit before pregnancy were significantly less likely to suffer preterm birth. However, women who consistently ate fatty and sugary foods were about 50 percent more likely to give birth prematurely.

"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," lead researcher Dr. Jessica Grieger, Posdoctoral Research Fellow with the Robinson Research Institute, based at the Lyell McEwin Hospital, said in a news release.

"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," said Grieger.

"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," added Grieger.

"It is important to consume a healthy diet before as well as during pregnancy to support the best outcomes for the mum and baby," she added.

"Diet is an important risk factor that can be modified. It is never too late to make a positive change. We hope our work will help promote a healthy diet before and during pregnancy. This will help to reduce the number of neonatal deaths and improve the overall health of children," she said.

The findings were presented at the upcoming SA Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Society for Medical Research during ASMR Medical Research Week on June 4th.

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