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Down syndrome
gastroschisis
neural tube defects
Hirschsprung disease


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diet and nutrition

METHIONINE LOWERS RISK FOR NEURAL TUBE DEFECTS

Methioninean essential amino acid found in meat and dairy products, such as liver, eggs, cheese and milkplays a role in normal embryo development in animals. Methionine is used in the same metabolic pathway as folic acid; when the body lacks folic acid, methionine intake becomes a limiting factor.

Examining mothers' dietary habits around conception and in early pregnancy, we found:

bullet Women who consumed more methionine had 30%-40% lower risk for neural tube defects; this was true regardless of folic acid intake.
bullet It's not certain if methionine or another correlated nutrient is associated with the risk reduction.

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NUTRITIONAL FACTORS IMPORTANT IN GASTROSCHISIS

The younger the mother, the higher the risk for having a baby with gastroschisis, a serious abdominal wall defect. We theorized that teen mothers themselves may still be growing, thus competing with their pregnancy for nutrients. Indeed, nutritional deficiencies may play a role.

bullet Low vegetable and fruit consumption increased risk 3-fold.
bullet A 3-4 times greater risk was noted with low intake of carotenoids (found in fruits and vegetables) and glutathione (from animal protein or fruits/vegetables). Both nutrients are antioxidants and may protect the fetus from oxygen stress, a factor theorized to contribute to gastroschisis.
bullet High dietary levels of nitrosamines (found in preserved meats and beer) more than doubled risk.

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NITRATES AND NEURAL TUBE DEFECTS

Nitratesa commonly occurring group of substances found in foods, medications, drinking water, and cigarette smokehave been implicated in cancer and other health outcomes. More than 85% of women's dietary nitrates came from fruits and vegetables. Nitrates in food did not increase risk for neural tube defects.

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COFFEE AND DOWN SYNDROME

bullet Women with high coffee consumption (4 or more cups daily) were less likely to have recognized Down syndrome pregnancies. These pregnancies are prone to miscarriage; drinking coffee may increase this susceptibility, reducing the chance of having a recognized Down syndrome pregnancy. (Mothers who were high coffee consumers were about 50% more likely to have had a previous miscarriage.) reference information
bullet Environmental factorsinteracting with the developmental instability caused by an extra chromosomemay influence which babies with Down syndrome have associated abnormalities. 4.2% of mothers drank 4 or more cups of coffee daily; they had a 6 times higher chance of having a baby with Hirschsprung disease. reference information





table- average daily intake

HEALTH HABITS NOT IDEAL

Program studies often include a detailed dietary questionnaire, providing a fascinating look at women's diet and nutrition around the time of conception.

bullet Despite adequate caloric intake, diets were frequently less than optimal. Fewer than half ate the recommended 5 servings/day of fruits/vegetables;
less than 10% consumed 6 servings/day of grains. Total fat intake exceeded the recommended 30% of daily calories.
bullet About 20% reported using food supplements. This was more common among Whites (34%) and rare in foreign-born Latinas (5%).
bullet More than 3/4 of women reported eating cereal at least weekly, making fortified cereal a good route for food supplementation.
bullet 10% of women fell below the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E, 25% were below RDAs for calcium, magnesium and zinc, and 50% were below RDA for iron, despite vitamin/mineral supplements. Most women got enough folic acid and vitamin C.
bullet 13% had dieted to lose weight.
bullet 4% were vegetarian.

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