Mediterranean diet in pregnancy to prevent spina bifida

Mediterranean diet in pregnancy to prevent spina bifida

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The defects of neural tube closure they are among the most common birth defects in newborns. About 50 percent of these defects are due to nutritional deficiencies, among them the deficit of folic acid.

Folic acid is a B-group vitamin, which can prevent up to 70 percent of some serious birth defects in the baby's brain and spine.

Spina bifida, a closure defect in the spine, can lead to lower body paralysis, poor bowel and bladder control, and learning difficulties.

The name folic acid comes from the Latin folium, which means leaf. Around the 60 percent of the folates ingested in the diet come from vegetables, cereals and fruits; while the remaining 40 percent comes from meat, fish and dairy products. However, its assimilation by the body is quite deficient since, on the one hand, intestinal bacteria synthesize only small amounts of folic acid and, on the other, it is a vitamin that is easily lost when food is cooked.

A study conducted by the Erasmus Medical Center, from the Netherlands, has revealed that there is a relationship between a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, fish and vegetable oils such as olive oil and a significant reduction in the chances of having a baby with spina bifida. All these foods are part of the Mediterranean diet and have a higher folic acid content than the rest. It is present in a wide variety of foods, but not all of them have the amount we need. These are the products richest in folic acid:

- Vegetables: green leafy vegetables. Spinach, cabbage, endives, chard, asparagus or broccoli.
- Vegetables: dried beans, chickpeas, lentils and beans.
- Cereals: wheat, rice and corn. Above all, the integrals.
- Fruits: oranges, melons, lemons and bananas.
- meats: chicken and beef liver.
- Nuts: peanuts and walnuts.
- Potatoes

Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin of group B, which it is essential to keep the body healthy. It has anti-anemic properties, strengthens the immune system, prevents cardiovascular diseases and reduces the possibility of developing colon, uterine and breast cancer. During pregnancy, it is necessary for the formation of the brain and spinal cord of the fetus. Its deficiency can affect the heart, the nervous system and the formation of the fetus, and cause anemia, decreased fertility, weight loss, paleness, weakness, diarrhea, forgetfulness or bad mood.

Alcohol, tobacco, sugar, some medicines, over-boiling vegetables and even stress are factors that make it difficult to assimilate.

- Cooking. Folates are very sensitive to cooking. Heat causes great losses in the activity of this vitamin. Therefore, endocrinologists recommend the consumption of fresh or raw fruits and vegetables whenever possible so that they do not lose their properties. If you cook them, cook them for a short time and cover the casserole.
- Conservation. Frozen products do not decrease the quality of the nutrients, but it is advisable that the food is little processed. Both juices and fruits must be taken quickly, since vitamins are lost after 20 minutes.
- Medicines. Certain medications can interfere with the absorption or metabolic pathway of folic acid: antacids, sulfasalazine, cholestyramine, anticonvulsants, some antibiotics, and oral contraceptives.
- Bad habits. Alcohol, tobacco, and an excessive intake of sugar prevent proper absorption.

Marisol New.

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