Low carbs diet may lead to greater risk of birth abnormality

A recent research has found that women who are expecting should avoid diets that cut or eliminate carbohydrates, as they could add to the risk of having babies with neural tube birth defects and abnormality.

The research, published in the journal ‘Birth Defects Research’, discovered that women with low carbohydrate consumption are 30 percent more likely to have babies with neural tube deformities, such as malformations of the spine and spinal cord, and absence of major portions of the brain and skull.

Such a condition can also lead to lifetime disability and infant death, when compared with women who do not restrict their carbohydrate intake.

This is the first study to evaluate the connection between low carbohydrate intake and having children with neural tube defects.

“We already know that maternal diet before and during early pregnancy play a significant role in foetal development. What is new about this study is its suggestion that low carbohydrate intake could increase the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect by 30 percent,” said Tania Desrosiers, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the United States.

“This is concerning because low carbohydrate diets are fairly popular,” Desrosiers said.

“This finding reinforces the importance for women who may become pregnant to talk to their healthcare provider about any special diets or eating behaviours they routinely practice,” Desrosiers added.

The Folic acid is an essential nutrient that minimizes the risk of neural tube flaws.  Over 20 percent of women in the US have blood folate concentrations below the recommended level to reduce the risk of neural tube abnormalities. Due to this, in 1998 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring that folic acid is added to enriched grain products.

The researchers found that dietary intake of folic acid among women with restricted carbohydrate intake was less than half of other women.