Women who reported being on a healthy diet the year prior pregnancy also had a lower risk of giving birth to babies affected by a heart defect than their less health concerned peers.
Scientists said that study participants who ate healthy had a 37 percent less risk of having a baby affected by either Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare mix of four heart conditions noticed since birth, or a hole in one of the walls of the heart, also known as atrial septal defect.
The healthiest babies were born from mothers who ate many fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish and cut down on sweets and meat products. Researchers explained that such diets are rich in iron, folic acid, calcium and other minerals essential’s for the mother’s health.
Dr. Lorenzo Botto said that his team found a direct link between a healthy diet and low risk of congenital heart disease. Nevertheless, the team acknowledged that they didn’t find a cause-and-effect association between the two.
In the U.S., one percent of newborns are affected by a heart defect. Congenital heart defects cause the death of one in four babies born with a birth defect. Study authors said that the condition is very common, but clinicians do not know how to prevent it.
The recent study was based on prior research that found a link between healthy diet and lower risk of birth defects.
During their study, the team analyzed data on nearly 10,000 women who had a baby with a heart defect. The information was compared with data on 9,500 moms of healthy babies.
Women were asked to provide researchers with information on their diet plan before conceiving. The answers were scored higher whenever they revealed a Mediterranean Diet-like diet or the Diet Quality Index, a diet that doctors usually recommend to women who want a baby.
The DQI usually involves lots of fruits and vegetables and grains and rejects dietary fats or sweets. The Mediterranean Diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, healthy nuts, whole grains, and fish and shuns meat and sweets.
Study participants who had high scores related to their dieting had a low risk of giving birth to a baby affected by a heart anomaly.
“We know that having a healthy woman tends to lead to a healthy baby,”
Dr. Botto noted.
Other experts agree. Dr. Edward McCabe recommends women who plan to have a baby either engage in a long-term healthy diet plan or at least eat healthy for a year before they conceive.
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