Multivitamins prevent premature birth


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ISLAMABAD: Women who take multivitamins before becoming pregnant are less likely to give birth to premature babies, new study findings suggest. According to the research, conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, women who took multivitamins before conceiving were half as likely to deliver their babies before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

However, continuing the multivitamins through the first months of pregnancy appeared to have no influence on the risk of prematurity, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology report. Study author Dr. Anjel Vahratian explained that multivitamins contain folic acid, a B vitamin that, when taken early in pregnancy, helps prevent birth defects in the brain and spinal cord. Previous research suggests that folic acid may improve the placental environment, which helps fatal growth during the last months of pregnancy.

Since half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, it’s important for women who may become pregnant to always take folic acid, just in case, the researcher noted. And although the study suggests that vitamins during pregnancy had no effect on prematurity, that does not mean they offer no benefits, Vahratian said.

“Public health professionals should continue to encourage women to take a daily multivitamin prior to conception and in pregnancy, as part of a healthy diet,” the researcher said. Most of the previous research on how maternal nutrition influences fatal outcomes has focused on how women ate during pregnancy, rather than before. To investigate how women’s diet before conceiving affects a fetes, Vahratian’s team asked 2,010 women between their 24th and 29th weeks of pregnancy about their use of multivitamins before and during their pregnancies, then followed them and noted who gave birth prematurely. Approximately 30 percent of women said they took multivitamins before and during their pregnancies, and another 54 percent said they started taking the pills only once they knew they were pregnant. Vitamin-users were, on average, older, married, more educated and financially secure.

Ninety-three women said they only took multivitamins before conceiving. These women also reported the highest rates of nausea or vomiting, which may explain why they did not continue the vitamins after they became pregnant.

Only five of these women gave birth prematurely, a lower rate of prematurity than that seen in nonusers, in women who took vitamins before and during pregnancy, and in those who started vitamins once they became pregnant. Vahratian, now based at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, noted that the benefits associated with multivitamins may not stem from the vitamins themselves. “The protective effect noted in preconceptional multivitamin users may be a proxy for overall healthiness – that women who take a multivitamin prior to pregnancy may be a healthier subset of the general population,” Vahratian told.

Low-carb diets may hurt heart health: Millions of people who are faithful to low-carbohydrate regimens to lose weight are missing out on fibber-rich foods essential to healthy hearts, experts warn.

“By eating a low-carbohydrate diet, you are selecting out those foods that may be rich in healthy carbohydrates,” said Jeannie Moloo, a Roseville, Calif., dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She said these nutrient-packed foods “lower LDL, the bad cholesterol, and blood insulin levels. They may also reduce blood clots.” Weight-conscious individuals continue to turn to low-carb regimens to trim waistlines. But according to nutritionists such as Moloo, they’re forgetting that not all carbohydrates are created equal.

“First, there’s refined carbohydrates — that’s where the nutrition has been removed and [manufacturers] have sometimes added sugar to the product — foods like white rice, white bread, cookies,” Moloo said, adding she has no problem with dieters cutting out these carbs.

“Refined carbohydrates release their sugar quickly into the blood, causing a dramatic spike in insulin,” she said. They are the “worst offenders” in terms of raising risks for cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, there are the “good carbs” — foods such as fruits, vegetables and, especially, whole grains — all packed with micronutrients, minerals, antioxidants and fibber. In one recent study, involving data on the diets of more than 350,000 men and women, researchers found that, for every 10 grams of cereal fibber consumed daily, risks for death from heart disease dropped by 25 percent. Fibber is simply the undigested part of any food, and it can come in a water-soluble or water-insoluble form. “When it comes to preventing heart disease, the water-soluble form is the one that’s been shown to lower cholesterol levels,” Moloo said.

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