A study has found expecting women switching to diets such as Paleo, Keto increases risk of birth defects.
Hyderabad: Pregnant women switching to a low-carbohydrate diet could lead to having fewer fortified foods, and thus resulting in inadequate intake of folic acid. This could end up in causing neural tube defects, according to data analysed from 1998 to 2011 and published in the journal Birth Defects Research.
Some women swtich to low-carb diets such as Atkins, Keto or Paleo before conception to reduce weight. It was found that lack of proper supplements led to nutrient deficiency. Low carbohydrate diets during pregnancy deprives the woman of vitamins and that affects the growth of the foetus.
The data analysed from various birth registries in the West found that there were stillbirths, spina bifida cases and birth defects due to very low-carb diets.
Dr Shruti Reddy, senior gynaecologist, said grains contain carbohydrates. “Apart from sugar, they also provide vitamins to the body. Folic acid is required for cell growth which is found in these foods.”
She said that during pregnancy, the lipid profile of the woman is different from normal and the women require direct sugar which metabolises and provides the required nutrients to the body.
“If the woman is on a low-carb diet, the sugar levels drop down and there is deficient production for the foetus,” Dr Reddy said. Supplementation in terms of multi-vitamins is important and the woman must also have green leafy vegetables, the doctor said.
Nutritionist Dr Janaki Srinath said the body required carbohydrates, fats and proteins and their intake have to be balanced. “When a person switches to fats and proteins, the body needs to be supplemented with carbs. The body requires 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. This is the prescription given to women who suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy,” Dr Srinath said.
Completely giving up carbs or being on a very low carb diet has to be evaluated based on the body metabolic rate, she said, during pregnancy, when obesity is an issue, the carbs have to be balanced and it differs from person to person. “Completely giving up carbohydrates without proper supplementation will affect the development of the foetus,” she said.
At the clinical level, experts state that there are cases where obesity has to be dealt with on a priority. During this time, a low-carb diet is followed till third or fourth month but after the fifth month of pregnancy, the carbohydrate intake is increased so that the sugar levels are sufficient for the growth of the foetus.
Dr Geeta Naidu, senior gynaecologist, said, “when we find that some women do not have control over food, they are given supplements to ensure that the growth of the child is not affected.”
“There are some non-vegetarians who eat too much of fat and protein and have very low intake of carbs.
“In such cases, the pregnancy is normal but the child growth is not as required and they need vitamin supplements. With ultrasound scans being done every month, these development factors are clear. Defects go unnoticed in those who do not follow up with the doctor on a monthly basis,” she said.