Suzan L. Carmichael of Stanford University and colleagues used data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study "to examine whether better maternal diet quality was associated with reduced risk for selected birth defects."
The data were collected in 10 states from pregnant women with estimated due dates from October 1997 through December 2005, Carmichael said.
Included in the analysis were 936 cases with neural tube defects (opening in the spinal cord or brain), 2,475 with orofacial clefts (abnormal facial development) and 6,147 controls without birth defects.
The researchers developed two diet quality indices that focused on overall diet quality based on the Mediterranean Diet and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid.
"…Increasing diet quality based on either Mediterranean Diet or USDA Food Pyramid was associated with reduced risks for the birth defects studied," the study authors found.
"Based on two diet quality indices, higher maternal diet quality in the year before pregnancy was associated with lower risk for neural tube defects and orofacial clefts. These results suggest that dietary approaches could lead to further reduction in risks of major birth defects."
The study was published Online First of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.