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Eating more vegetables before pregnancy may lower preterm birth risk

A diet with more traditional vegetables — including broccoli, cabbage and green beans — prior to pregnancy may help reduce the risk for preterm birth, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Traditional vegetables are rich in antioxidants or anti-inflammatory nutrients, which have a significant role in reducing the risk of adverse birth outcomes,” Dereje G. Gete, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, Australia, said in a press release.

Gete and colleagues evaluated women who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, an ongoing population-based prospective cohort study that began in 1996 and surveys participants every 3 years. Survey 3 and survey 5 included a food frequency questionnaire, which researchers used to identify four dietary patterns: meats and high fats; sugar, refined grains and processed foods; prudent diets; and traditional vegetables.

Women born between 1973 and 1978 who were not pregnant at the time of enrollment and later experienced at least two pregnancies were evaluated in the study. Researchers included a total of 3,422 mother-infant pairs in their analyses of pre-pregnancy diet and preterm birth, and 3,508 mother-infant pairs in analyses of pre-pregnancy diet and low birth weight.

Salad 
A diet with more traditional vegetables — including broccoli, cabbage and green beans — prior to pregnancy may help reduce the risk for preterm birth, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Source: Adobe Stock

After adjusting for lifestyle factors, such as alcohol intake and physical activity, and pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes, Gete and colleagues found that the risk for preterm birth was lower among women with the highest adherence to a traditional vegetable diet compared to those with the lowest adherence (adjusted OR = 0.72; 95% CI, 0.53-0.99).

In a sub-analysis of preterm birth, women who had the highest adherence to a traditional vegetable diet prior to pregnancy had a lower risk for spontaneous preterm birth compared to those with the lowest adherence (RR ratio = 0.62; 95% CI, 0.39-1).

However, researchers found that both results were attenuated with pre-pregnancy BMI. They did not identify a significant association between a traditional vegetable diet and low birth weight.

“Women depend on certain stored nutrients such as calcium and iron before conception, which are critical for placenta and fetus tissue development,” Gete said in the press release. “Starting a healthier diet after the baby has been conceived may be too late, because babies are fully formed by the end of the first trimester.” – by Erin Michael

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

A diet with more traditional vegetables — including broccoli, cabbage and green beans — prior to pregnancy may help reduce the risk for preterm birth, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Traditional vegetables are rich in antioxidants or anti-inflammatory nutrients, which have a significant role in reducing the risk of adverse birth outcomes,” Dereje G. Gete, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, Australia, said in a press release.

Gete and colleagues evaluated women who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, an ongoing population-based prospective cohort study that began in 1996 and surveys participants every 3 years. Survey 3 and survey 5 included a food frequency questionnaire, which researchers used to identify four dietary patterns: meats and high fats; sugar, refined grains and processed foods; prudent diets; and traditional vegetables.

Women born between 1973 and 1978 who were not pregnant at the time of enrollment and later experienced at least two pregnancies were evaluated in the study. Researchers included a total of 3,422 mother-infant pairs in their analyses of pre-pregnancy diet and preterm birth, and 3,508 mother-infant pairs in analyses of pre-pregnancy diet and low birth weight.

Salad 
A diet with more traditional vegetables — including broccoli, cabbage and green beans — prior to pregnancy may help reduce the risk for preterm birth, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Source: Adobe Stock

After adjusting for lifestyle factors, such as alcohol intake and physical activity, and pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes, Gete and colleagues found that the risk for preterm birth was lower among women with the highest adherence to a traditional vegetable diet compared to those with the lowest adherence (adjusted OR = 0.72; 95% CI, 0.53-0.99).

In a sub-analysis of preterm birth, women who had the highest adherence to a traditional vegetable diet prior to pregnancy had a lower risk for spontaneous preterm birth compared to those with the lowest adherence (RR ratio = 0.62; 95% CI, 0.39-1).

However, researchers found that both results were attenuated with pre-pregnancy BMI. They did not identify a significant association between a traditional vegetable diet and low birth weight.

“Women depend on certain stored nutrients such as calcium and iron before conception, which are critical for placenta and fetus tissue development,” Gete said in the press release. “Starting a healthier diet after the baby has been conceived may be too late, because babies are fully formed by the end of the first trimester.” – by Erin Michael

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Kristi L. King

    Kristi L. King

    Not many studies have been conducted on diet prior to becoming pregnant, so it definitely is new territory and thought provoking. It could potentially pertain to U.S. women; however, the dietary pattern “groups” they looked at may vary here in the U.S.  

    The findings indicate consuming a diet high in “traditional” vegetables prior to becoming pregnant could help prevent preterm births. We know that plant-based diets are higher in antioxidants, reducing overall inflammation. One question that should be examined: Is this reduction in inflammation contributing to the prevention of preterm birth, or are eating behaviors changing DURING pregnancy that may have skewed when birth occurred? Nonetheless, more studies should be done on various populations. I could see where this may be beneficial, especially in women who are already at high-risk (for example, advanced maternal age) or going through fertility treatments to see if plant-based diet prior to pregnancy will potentially help.

    • Kristi L. King, MPH, RDN, LD, CNSC
    • Senior pediatric dietitian, Texas Children's Hospital in Houston
      Clinical instructor, Baylor College of Medicine

    Disclosures: King reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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