Transcript: Garlic and Raisins to Prevent Premature Birth
The United States has one of the highest premature birth rates in the world, now ranking 131st worldwide. Even worse, over the last few decades, the rate of preterm birth in the U.S. has been going up.
We’ve known that preterm delivery is associated with significant problems during infancy, and almost three quarters of all infant deaths, but even preemies who survive past infancy may carry a legacy of health issues, such as behavioral problems and moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disabilities and psychiatric disorders in half of those born extremely preterm by the time they reach school-age. There’s even evidence now that adults born very premature are at increased risk for things like heart disease and diabetes. And babies don’t even have to be born that premature to suffer long-term effects. Even so-called near-term births at 36 or 37 weeks are now thought to be related to subtle developmental problems. So what can pregnant women do to decrease this risk?
I’ve talked about avoiding aspartame and diet soda consumption during pregnancy, but what about food? 66,000 pregnant women were studied to examine whether an association exists between maternal dietary patterns and risk of preterm delivery. They compared a so-called “prudent” diet which was more plant-based versus a Western or traditional Scandinavian diet. (for example, vegetables, fruits, oils, water as beverage, whole grain cereals, fiber rich bread), “Western” (salty and sweet snacks, white bread, desserts, processed meat products), and found that the “prudent” pattern was associated with significantly reduced risk of preterm delivery. The findings suggest that diet matters, but why and how?
Well inflammation is thought to play a role in triggering delivery, and so a diet characterized by high intakes of vegetables, fruit, and berries can reduce both systemic and local inflammation and the lower saturated fat levels would also associated with reduced inflammation. Any foods in particular?
Well since a significant percentage of preterm deliveries are thought to be related to infections and inflammatory conditions in the genital tract, what about looking into garlic. Garlic is well-known for its antimicrobial properties, and also has probiotic dietary fibers that feed our good bacteria. Speaking of which, dried fruit are packed with fiber and also have antimicrobial activities against some of the bacteria suspected to play a role in preterm delivery. So they studied the garlic, onion, and dried fruit intake of nearly 19,000 pregnant women, and indeed, they observed a reduced risk of spontaneous preterm delivery related to groups of garlic and onion family vegetables and dried fruits. In particular, garlic stood out for the vegetables and raisins for the dried fruit, was associated with a reduced risk of both preterm delivery and preterm pre-labor rupture of membranes, which means your water breaking prematurely, before 37 weeks. And it didn’t seem to take much. The so-called “high” garlic intake associated with the lowest risk was just about one clove a week or more, and “high” raisin intake was defined as just like one of those mini snack boxes of raisins a month.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.
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