Low-cholesterol diet may lower rate of preterm birth

January 1, 2006

A cholesterol-lowering diet during pregnancy may do more than just modify maternal lipid levels; it may significantly reduce the rate of preterm birth among low-risk women, according to researchers from Norway.

A cholesterol-lowering diet during pregnancy may do more than just modify maternal lipid levels; it may significantly reduce the rate of preterm birth among low-risk women, according to researchers from Norway.

The researchers found that while a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, low-fat meats, dairy products, oils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes did not alter lipid levels in cord blood or in neonates born to mothers in the intervention group, when compared to controls, it did lower maternal total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (P<0.01) and lowered the rate of preterm birth from 7.4% among controls to 0.7% in the intervention group.

While the basis of the relationship is uncertain, one proposed theory is that diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and enriched with polyunsaturated fatty acids may influence cytokine levels, which have been proposed as markers of preterm delivery. Another theory is that polyunsaturated fatty acids have an antiarrhythmic effect on the myometrium. And still another is that micronutrients such as vitamins C and E may prolong gestation.