- Pregnant women who eat sugary or highly processed food
such as white bread and cornflakes face double the risk of having malformed
babies, according to new research.
- Scientists made the discovery after comparing the diets
of mothers whose babies had so-called neural tube defects such as spina
bifida with those of mothers with normal babies.
- The study, involving almost 1,000 women, found that the
risk of such birth defects was substantially greater among those who consumed
higher levels of sugar and the highly refined carbohydrates found in potatoes,
white bread and rice and many popular breakfast cereals.
- University researchers at the California birth defects
monitoring programme in Berkeley said such foods may double the risk of
neural tube defects in unborn babies, increasing to a fourfold risk among
mothers with obesity.
- The new findings, reported in the latest issue of the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, add to the growing concern over
food products with a high glycemic index (GI). By producing a surge in
blood sugar, the foods trigger the release of a large amount of insulin,
high levels of which have already been implicated in birth defects.
- Dr Ross Welch, a specialist in foetal medicine at Arrowe
Park Hospital, Wirral, Cheshire, said: "Assuming these results have
a sound statistical basis, then this is important. The question we have
to ask is what do we do about it?" Most mothers did not realise the
crucial importance of diet in the first days of pregnancy, Dr Welch said.
- "High blood sugar levels have already been linked
with foetal abnormality in diabetes, and this new research seems to be
in line with that." He added: "Preconceptual folic acid is, however,
still likely to be more important."
- The findings come amid mounting evidence that high GI
foods may pose a significant threat to health. Earlier this year, high
GI diets were linked to 50 to 80 per cent increases in risk of oral and
ovarian cancer by researchers at the Centre for Cancer Research in Aviano,
- Most concern focuses on the role of such food in obesity.
Research published earlier this month by scientists at Oxford Brookes University
found that children given a high GI breakfast of cornflakes, Coco-Pops
or white bread consumed many more calories at lunchtime than those given
a low-GI alternative, such as bran flakes or porridge.
- Professor Jeya Henry, who led the research, said that
the results supported evidence that high-GI foods boost appetite while
cutting satiety - the "full" feeling that normally follows a
meal. Both are thought to play important roles in developing obesity.
- "It is time we got away from the idea that it is
all just a matter of a lack of self-control and exercise," said Prof
Henry. "Every measure to reduce food intake must be explored. If we
are serious about this issue, we need the Government and the food industry
to get together to fund more research as a matter of urgency."
- Within the scientific world there is mounting anger over
what is being seen as foot-dragging by the food industry over its role
in the increase in obesity, which according to official figures is responsible
for 30,000 premature deaths a year in Britain.
- Neville Rigby, the policy director of the London-based
international obesity task force, said: "The food industry is the
solution - they have to be, but they are not doing enough." However,the
food industry insists that the issues involved are complex. A spokesman
for Kellogg's, which makes many high GI cereals, said: "The science
is relatively new and in some areas controversial. For instance, simply
adding milk to cornflakes lowers their GI, while adding a banana lowers
it even further.
- "There is very clear evidence that foods such as
Kellogg's Corn Flakes, which are high in carbohydrate and low in fat, play
an important role in helping people reduce fat intakes, maintain weight
levels and possibly help their bodies to better control blood sugar levels."
- Parents with children suffering from spina bifida welcomed
the research. Su Scurr, from Tiverton, Devon, whose three-year-old daughter
Briony has spina bifida, said last night: "If these foods are a significant
factor then women need to be made aware of this research. I wouldn't wish
what happened to me on anyone. It was awful. We found out that I was carrying
a child with spina bifida in a scan at about 22 weeks.
- "I took folic acid in the two months before I got
pregnant and I made sure I ate lots of fruit and salads but in the past
I had eaten quite a bit of sugar. Who doesn't eat cereals? We need more
research into spina bifida."
- Mrs Scurr, a full-time mother, who lives with her husband
Peter, a chiropodist, Briony and two other - healthy - children, said abortion
was not an option. "I have no regrets. Briony is lovely."
- Tanni Grey-Thompson OBE, who was born with spina bifida
and has become Britain's best-known paralympic athlete, said last night:
"These findings are interesting but you have to put them into context.
Living in areas with heavy industry is also a factor, for example. It is
really useful to encourage women to eat a better diet but there are also
financial reasons why women eat what they do."
- Ms Grey-Thompson, who has won 14 paralympic medals and
eight medal placings in the London Marathon, added: "There are a huge
number of scary things that women are told when they become pregnant that
can put a lot of guilt on mothers. Sometimes disability is no one's fault
and there is nothing you can do about it."
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2003.
- Of course the nutritional issue here is destruction of
the food source and the removal of any trace of natural B complex vitamins.
This is the specific issue regarding the extreme rate of Diabetes Mellitus
(DM) in the tribal people in the US. This is also an issue in the non-tribal
population. There is a multitude of related concerns: all of them lead
back to a base line of the non-functioning thyroid gland. There is a direct
relationship between lack of B complex vitamins and poor thyroid health,
continuing on to include DM. Obesity and many other health problems are
outer expressions of malnutrition. It won't be fixed with the current
approach, either in mainstream or "alternative" medicine.