Garlic & Raisins to Prevent Premature Birth

Garlic & Raisins to Prevent Premature Birth
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Consumption of even small amounts of garlic or raisins are associated with significantly lower risk of pregnant women going into premature labor or having their water break too soon.

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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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to cartersbebemom via Pixabay.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to cartersbebemom via Pixabay.

26 responses to “Garlic & Raisins to Prevent Premature Birth

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  1. I’m not convinced. The paper cited about garlic and raisins (other things as well) is simply an association. I love this website but I fear that as Dr. Greger tries to learn more about the health-nutrition link he forgets that there are still millions that need to be educated on the power of food to reverse our number one killers. Articles like this start to put this website on the outskirts of acceptable presentation of scientific literature.

    Please Dr. Greger, stay focused on the clear proven links between diet and health. Now a paper looking at women who have had frequent miscarriages and showing a diet change can influence the probability of a miscarriage. This would be very interesting (phd thesis anyone?). The cited paper is an association and we shouldn’t be too quick to point at a single component as the cause.




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    1. I disagree. Hardcore science starts with an association which you observe, then you make a hypothesis, and if it is interesting enough (and you can raise the money) a study will be conducted. Viewers of this site are intelligent enough to figure out (from the video) that garlic and raisins are not the (only) answer to premature birth, but there is an association. In my opinion the point of the video is to show, that what your mother eats can have a huge impact on the rest of your life.




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      1. I agree with you that an association can more us towards the hypothesis and so on. However, I would like us to be more prudent. I don’t want to see the website to start overstating the benefits. It would have been nicer, in my opinion, if the video ended with Dr. Greger stressing the fact that an association does in no way imply causation.

        It is my belief that this website can help make nutrition the mainstream treatment for our number one killers. I feel a video like this moves towards a more misleading presentation of the information for those viewers who are not versed in the great disparity between association and causation. With that said, I agree with what George said below, Pascal’s Wager is fine in the end.




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        1. Generally it is “dangerous” to want absolute proof – it is hard to get and takes time – the ultimate hard endpoint is death. Of course correlation is not the same as causation, but it shows you where to look. There are firm, but not conclusive evidence, that a mostly plantbased diet, makes you live longer, better and minimize your risk for a number diseases. Thats enough for me. If you want absolute proof you have to wait 80 years….Some times we have to accept probable evidence, because conclusive evidence are years away. It takes years of training and experience to make the right interpretation of scientific evidence – thats why you can see all kinds of crazy claims based on science – meat, milk and eggs are health foods and so on. Dr. Greger has years of training and experience in reading scientific litterature.




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    2. Mike: You do have a point. In cases like this I apply Pascal’s Wager. No, there’s no definitive proof that garlic or raisins can prevent premature birth. I doubt there ever will be. But garlic and dried fruits are ubiquitous, inexpensive, packed with nutrients, and tasty. I’d try it. If it works, it’s great. If it doesn’t, it’s still great




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      1. George and Mike, I and my friends Alex, Ben, Charles, David, Ed, Frank, Harry, Irving, Kevin, Larry, Nathan, Oliver, Patrick, Quentin, Ralph, Steven, Tim, Ulysses, Victor, Walt, Xavier, Yuri and Zachary have been eating garlic and raisins for years, and not one of us have experienced a single case of premature birth…




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        1. Actually, this is science – following a cohort for several years. And impressive results! You just have to be careful with the interpretation………:-)




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          1. I asked my friends Joe, Steve, Gary, Alex, Ben, Josh, another Josh and they never eat garlic nor fruit. Two of them have never had a piece of fruit in their lives. Still, no cases of premature birth….




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            1. Its all about risk going up and down. For someone who has never eaten fruit before, I can confidently say that their risk for health issues are high. Because you do not consume these foods does not guarantee premature birth.




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        2. Ha ha, you’re all male…can’t have a baby. Like a comedy shoe. So funny because you have not experienced premie struggle. Not so funny when you have. Grow up some more and come back. We all have big laugh then.




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    3. Since you asked, Maconochie, N., Doyle, P., Prior, S., & Simmons, R. (2007). Risk factors for first trimester miscarriage—results from a UK‐population‐based case–control study.BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 114(2), 170-186.

      The most apparently protective dietary factor was daily or nearly daily consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, associated with a halving in risk for miscarriage. Dairy, chocolate, and intercourse were associated with lesser risk reductions, and oddly, air travel appeared almost as potent as veggies, with a dose dependent benefit for hours of flight. Meanwhile those drinking alcohol at least once had increased risk, and with daily alcohol, three times the risk..




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  2. Yum! Two great tastes that taste great together. Garlic and raisins, together at last. Wait a minute. Perhaps it is not as preposterous combination as it would seem at first blush. Maybe a rice pilaf with almonds added, or perhaps a savory chick pea stew with tomatoes and onions, or a hot and sweet potato curry. This might actually work.




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  3. Dried fruit is awfully sweet and sticks to the teeth, possibly causing cavities. Because it’s dried instead of fresh, some of its nutrition has been lost along with various phyto-chemicals. So, I think that the equivalent amount of fresh fruit would be better. Too bad they didn’t study it’s effect. But I’m sure that drying a grape doesn’t add to it’s fiber content.




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    1. actually its even less than what you said because in the video I beleive he said clove a week for garlic, which I’m pretty sure is just one of the little sections that you break off.




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    2. Its a case control recall questionaire study, so rather low on the hierarchy of evidence. Its worth examining Table 3 from the paper, in particular the adjusted model in the right two columns, which accounts for some other factors which may influence preterm birth risk.

      With the raisins, low raisin intake was associated with a lower risk of preterm birth than high raisin intake, which itself was not significantly better than no raisins. Given this lack of dose-dependent effects, and the very low dose level, this association may reflect overall dietary patterns: expectant mothers who occasionally choose raisins over other snacks may make a number of wise health decisions. And while statistically significant, the low raisin intake result wasn’t highly significant, the P-value indicates there’s a 3.4% chance of this result occurring by chance from comparing two random samples from an identical population distribution. (P-values are important measure of confidence in meaningful non-null research outcomes, with 5% being barely statistically significant, and very small values (commonly reported down to 0.001%) offering increasing confidence in an association).

      There’s a similar lack of dose response for dried fruit as a whole, though there’s no question that eating at least some dried fruit was associated with lower risk.

      With the garlic, there was a hint of positive dose response, as only the high intake category had a significant result. This study binned every mother consuming between one clove and multiple heads of garlic per week into a single high-intake category, so its possible more dramatic protection among those who ate more than one clove dragged the the whole category. The low 0.9% P-value is fairly impressive. My concern here would be that knowing the cloves of garlic consumed is a pretty good proxy for home cooked dinners, and home cooking tends to be healthier fare than processed, restaurant, or fast food.

      Case-control studies are done because they’re inexpensive, and often suggest avenues for further, more conclusive research with prospective cohorts or intervention trials. It’s premature to conclude that raisins and garlic prevent preterm birth, but we have more confidence that they won’t do any harm in pregnancy and might do good.




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      1. Absolutely excellent. Thank you for some good analysis on the paper. I do hope Dr. Greger changes this video because, it do believe,it is misleading in its current form.




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      2. Absolutely excellent. Thank you for some good analysis on the paper. I do hope Dr. Greger changes this video because, I do believe, it is misleading in its current form.




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  4. Okay, so has anybody determined whether eating four Brazil nuts once a month can get the same result? I mean, why not carry the study beyond the raisins and garlic theory? There’s a big (food) world out there.




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  5. Lessee,, what do I recommend to the child-bearing women in my life? Consider eating as suggested by the associations highlighted in this video? But consider the down sides…um…garlic breath! Oh dear?

    Thanks, once again, Dr. Greger, for describing the possible mechanisms in this study and other work you’ve discussed that would be congruent with these results. Taken together, the massive body of your research is distilling into a rational overarching principle of good eating, good activity and positive mental health. The Symphony is in tune. Play on!




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  6. What about vaccines, there is a direct correlation. Aborted Fetal DNA, viral DNA and a multitude of neurotoxins are included
    in the soup into pregnant mothers. The American Pediatric Association recommends pregnant mothers be vaccinated with the tDAP vaccine to pass on immunity to the unborn fetus. The FDA noted in a report November 2013, that those vaccinated can carry the pertussus organism in their respiratory tracts for 6 weeks after being vaccinated. Now babies are being born a month early….are they escaping a toxic enviornment? I wonder? Into exposure to the dangerous whooping cough virus from their own mothers.




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  7. When I was pregnant with my first and only child almost thirty years ago, I craved garlic and raisins. Not that I was a fast food freak, but Burger King hamburgers repulsed me and they do today. I still eat a whole lot of garlic, but not so much raisins. This is the strangest thing that I would read about them both almost thirty years later.




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  8. I’m 26 weeks pregnant and also watched the video regarding the possible increased risk of anti-inflammatory foods causing “premature closure of the ductus arteriosus.” Obviously, as a mother, I would like to prevent the premature closer of this little valve; however, I would also eat/do whatever I could to decrease risk for premature labor. I’m curious what you would advise. Should I then also reduce foods such as garlic, onion, and raisins after 28 weeks?




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