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Organic food consumers have a 21% lower risk of pre-eclampsia

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(NaturalNews) Pregnant women may be able to lower their risk of a potentially deadly complication known as pre-eclampsia by more than 20 percent simply by eating more organic vegetables, according to a study conducted by researchers from the National Institute for Consumer Research and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and published in BMJ Open.

"The result is intriguing and supports that diet during pregnancy can influence the risk of pre-eclampsia," researcher Hanne Torjusen, PhD, said.

Pre-eclampsia is a complication of late pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The cause of the condition is not known, although it has been linked to a variety of risk factors including some of the same risk factors as cardiovascular disease. Mild cases may resolve without problems, but severe cases may progress into a life-threatening condition that can only be alleviated through premature delivery of the baby.

The new study is the first to show a connection between organic food consumption and lower pre-eclampsia risk.

Benefit independent of other factors

The study, which is part of a PhD project investigating whether organic food consumed during pregnancy provides health benefits to the mother and child, used data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). Between 2002 and 2008, the researchers followed 28,192 MoBa participants who were pregnant with their first child. Over the course of their pregnancies, 5.3 percent of participants developed preeclampsia.

Toward the middle of their pregnancies, participants completed detailed food frequency questionnaires, which included questions about how often they consumed organic vegetables, fruits, cereals, eggs, milk and meat. Overall, 39.8 percent of women "sometimes" ate at least one organic food, 7 percent "often" did so, and 1.8 percent "mostly" did so.

The researchers found that women who "often" or "mostly" ate organic vegetables were 21 percent less likely to develop pre-eclampsia than women who "rarely" or "never" did so. No connection was found between pre-eclampsia rates and consumption of other organic foods.

The researchers found that women who ate organic food more often were likely to have healthier diets overall, including a higher consumption of vegetables, fruits, berries and whole grains and a lower consumption of meat, processed meat, white bread, cakes and sweets. They tended to be younger, have a lower body mass index and consume more calories than women who ate organic foods less frequently. They were slightly less likely to smoke and slightly more likely to have reached a higher level of education.

The researchers controlled for all of those factors in their analysis, as well as certain other socioeconomic and lifestyle differences. The effect of organic vegetable consumption on pre-eclampsia risk was independent of these other factors. It was also independent of other pre-eclampsia risk factors, including gestational weight gain.

Many benefits to organic foods

While eating lots of vegetables is crucial for all pregnant women, the new study suggests that consuming organic vegetables may provide additional benefits. And while the current study was not set up to prove that organic vegetable consumption actually caused improved pregnancy outcomes, the researchers suggest several mechanisms by which such an effect could operate. These include lower exposure to pesticides, higher intake of protective plant compounds such as antioxidants and producing a more beneficial makeup of gut microbes, thereby reducing the risk of inflammatory conditions.

The study was funded by the Research Council of Norway and the Food Programme. The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Research. The researchers reported that they have no financial connections to the study funders.





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