Garlic and Raisins to Prevent Premature Birth

Image Credit: Isabel Eyre / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Eating Garlic & Raisins May Help Prevent Preterm Birth

The United States has one of the worst 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. Unfortunately, even preemies who survive past infancy may carry a legacy of health issues, such as behavioral problems, 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 prematurely 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?

66,000 pregnant women were studied to examine whether an association exists between maternal dietary patterns and risk of preterm delivery. Researchers compared a so-called “prudent” diet (vegetables, fruits, oils, water as beverage, whole grain cereals, fiber rich bread), which was more plant-based versus a “Western” or traditional Scandinavian diet (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.

Inflammation is thought to play a role in triggering delivery; 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 be associated with reduced inflammation. Any foods in particular?

A significant percentage of preterm deliveries are thought to be related to infections and inflammatory conditions in the genital tract. Garlic is well-known for its antimicrobial properties, and also has probiotic dietary fibers that feed our good bacteria. Dried fruit is also packed with fiber and has antimicrobial activities against some of the bacteria suspected to play a role in preterm delivery.

Researchers (highlighted in my video, Garlic and Raisins to Prevent Premature Birth) 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 stood out for the dried fruit. Both were 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 one of those mini snack boxes of raisins a month.

Here’s the video on aspartame (NutraSweet) and diet soda during pregnancy: Diet Soda and Preterm Birth.

Some other popular pregnancy videos include:

More on garlic in #1 Anti-Cancer Vegetable and Cancer, Interrupted: Garlic and Flavenoids.

Videos on dried fruit include:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

18 responses to “Eating Garlic & Raisins May Help Prevent Preterm Birth

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        1. I would think that a garlic clove not only has the fiber that bacteria love to eat, but has a few of those fiber loving bacteria as well. So, both.

  1. One clove of garlic a week? One little snack box of raisins monthly? I can’t help thinking those women are also doing other healthy eating and taking better care of themselves. It’s pretty hard for me to believe that is all that separates them from all the pregnant junk food eaters out there.

    1. Rebecca your question got me curious so I went to the to see if they qualified the diet and lifestyle of the participants in any other way. They did say that when they divided the women in the study into groups of “consumers” of alums and dried fruit and “non-consumers” the “consumers” tended to be older, more educated, have higher incomes, non-smokers and normal weight. One could argue that these are all characteristics that would be consistent with lower incidence of premature birth and may have had an impact on the results. However they also said that their findings were consistent “after adjusting for maternal age, parity, fetal sex, pre-pregnancy BMI, previous spontaneous PTD, marital status, smoking before pregnancy, smoking in pregnancy, alcohol intake, household income, and educational level.” So it looks like a little clove of garlic and a snack box of raisins might just do it for you.

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    2. I don’t think fresh amla fruit is available in the US, but you can buy dried amla fruit and amla fruit powder inexpensively. I use the organic dried amla powder from Terrasoul and I’m happy with it. Mountain Rose Herbs also has both dried berries and powder, both organic. I’ve never used them but have used other products from them and am satisfied.

      1. I live in southern california and we have Indian markets that sell fresh amla berries that are frozen. I let a few thaw out for about 15 minutes and then cut around the very hard seed and put in smoothies with dates. They are not palatable by themselves.

    3. I know my local Indian Market carries them seasonally. You can also find it pickled, fresh frozen,, and dried and salted cut into pieces at the Indian stores. Mountain Rose Herbal has the a pretty high quality dried product.

  2. I wonder if all the premature births include or exclude those that are done on purpose. There seems to be a greatly increased number of “induced” labor, which by definition is early labor, for reasons as trivial as wanting a choose a certain day for a birth date. Not only are induced labors not really fair to the baby (of course, I mean unnecessary induced labors) but it makes the labor much more difficult for the mother.

    1. Preterm birth defined by CDC is delivery before 37 weeks. My guess is the preterm births are referred to in studies, are the unplanned births before 37 weeks. I would think that any doctor that would induce labor for trivial reasons would only do so within a window of the actual due date and they wouldn’t induce preterm labor unless there is an imminent concern for mom or baby. Good question!

  3. I read that having too many eggs can lead to high omega 6 which causes inflammation and can lead to preterm labor. Just wondering if eating an omlet everyday was good for protein or bad for high omega 6. I’m in the hospital on bedrest so my protein options are limited.

    1. K: I’ve heard about a lot of health risks concerning eggs, but I’ve never heard of a concern about their omega 6 content. For an overview of health risks concerning eggs, check out this NutritionFacts topic page: You can see that the negatives of egg eating are very high. I can’t think of any good reason to eat eggs.
      You mentioned that you thought that the protein in eggs is good. I know that the egg industry works hard to make people believe that. But in truth, the protein in eggs is just animal protein. Not only does that animal protein come in a package that is harmful as explained on the page I linked to above, but the animal protein itself is harmful. You can learn more about one of the problems with animal protein by watching the NutritionFacts series on IGF-1. Start with the following video and keep clicking “next video” until you get thru the video on body building: The good news is that there are easy ways to get healthy sources of protein. You can learn more about that here:
      I feel that none of this addresses your real problem, which is “What do I eat in the hospital?” I’ve heard horror stories about the food that hospitals server. Hospitals are notorious for serving unhealthy food, even directly to patients. All I can think to suggest is to have people bring healthy food to you. I don’t know if that’s an option or not. If not, maybe you could work with the hospital to at least make some improvements. Also, if you are interested, I can provide you with some resources about healthy eating while pregnant.

      Best of luck to you. I hope everything goes well from here on out.

  4. I’m expecting my first child and reading just about everything I can about pre- and post-natal care. I’m currently looking for a pediatrician in central New York, ideally someone who believes in natural nutrition and who subscribes to the medical approach of doctors like Dr. Greger. Any suggestions?

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