Healthier Maternal Diet Lowers Risk of Certain Birth Defects

Healthier maternal dietary patterns reduce risks of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts

THURSDAY, Oct. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Higher quality of maternal diet is associated with lower risks of neural tube defects (NTDs) and orofacial clefts, according to a study published online Oct. 3 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Suzan L. Carmichael, Ph.D., from Stanford University in California, and colleagues investigated the effect of better maternal diet quality on the risk of developing selected birth defects among infants with estimated due dates between 1997 to 2005. Telephonic interview data were collected from 72 percent of mothers with children born with NTDs or orofacial clefts and 67 percent of control mothers. A total of 936 cases with NTDs, 2,475 with orofacial clefts, and 6,147 nonmalformed controls were analyzed. The Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) and Diet Quality Index (DQI), modeled after existing indices, were calculated using food-frequency data, and adjusted odds ratios (aORs) were determined.

The investigators found that increased maternal diet quality, based on either index, correlated with lower risks of NTDs and orofacial clefts, after adjusting for covariates. The association between anencephaly and DQI was the strongest with an aOR of 0.49 for the highest versus lowest quartile. The aORs for cleft lip with or without cleft palate, and cleft palate and DQI were also significant at 0.66 and 0.74, respectively.

"Healthier maternal dietary patterns, as measured by diet quality scores, were associated with reduced risks of NTDs and clefts. These results suggest that dietary approaches could lead to further reduction in risks of major birth defects, and complement existing efforts to fortify foods and encourage periconceptional multivitamin use," the authors write.

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