Diet influences preterm delivery?
Issue 23: 14 Nov 2005
Source: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 2005; 193: 1292-301

Adopting a cholesterol-lowering diet could reduce the risk of preterm delivery in low-risk pregnancies, according to the findings of a new study.

Specialists from centers in Oslo, Norway, randomly assigned 290 women aged 21-38 years to, from 17-20 weeks’ gestation onwards, either continue their usual diet or to adopt a diet with a high intake of fish, low-fat meats and dairy products, oils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

The women in the dietary intervention group met with a dietician at the start of the study and at weeks 24, 30, and 36 of their pregnancy. The diet (described in detail in the published paper) included limiting the intake of cholesterol to 150 mg/day, reducing saturated fat to 8% of total energy intake, and aiming at a weight gain of 8-14 kg from pre-pregnancy levels.

All of the women in the study were non-smoking, white, with singleton pregnancies, and had no previous pregnancy-related complications. About two-thirds were nulliparous.

Lipids lowered

Writing in the latest issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics &
Gynecology, the researchers report that maternal levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein were significantly lower in the intervention group than in the control group. There were no differences between the two groups in levels of cord and neonatal lipids.

Overall, one of the 141 women in the dietary intervention group had a
preterm delivery (defined as a live delivery before 37 completed weeks of gestation), compared with 11 of the 149 women in the control group. This was a statistically significant difference. There were no differences between the groups in the incidence of other pregnancy complications.

The researchers write: “In conclusion, a diet that was reduced in saturated fat and cholesterol, and enriched in a number of micronutrients, modified maternal cholesterol levels, but not cord and neonatal lipids. It was associated with a lower incidence of preterm delivery in low-risk
pregnancies and had no adverse effects.”

They say the findings warrant replicating the study in a larger population
of pregnant women, involving both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies: “The marked observed effect of this diet on the reduction of preterm delivery in low-risk pregnancies should encourage future larger studies to clarify the role of such a diet in the prevention of preterm birth.”