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Study links mother’s obesity to stillbirths

  • Published Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 12:17 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 29, 2014, at 5:50 a.m.

A Drexel University study suggests that obesity is the single most important characteristic that increases a pregnant woman’s chance of having a rare and heartbreaking occurrence – stillbirth.

Maternal obesity is a known risk factor for fetal death, as well as for pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes.

But the current obesity epidemic is intensifying concern, and prompting updated analyses of the stillbirth risk.

In 2006, about three out of every 1,000 pregnancies of 28 weeks or more ended in stillbirth, and the rate has been inching down for decades, according to federal data.

To see how obesity impacted this risk, study leader Ruofan Yao, an obstetrics-gynecology resident at Hahnemann University Hospital, and colleagues used records from Texas and Washington, which are among 17 states that collect pre-pregnancy weight data along with birth statistics.

The analysis found 9,030 stillbirths among 2.8 million single-child deliveries between 2003 and 2011.

About half of the women in the analysis were of normal weight; 26 percent were overweight; and the rest fell into four increasingly severe categories of obesity. Nearly 4 percent were morbidly obese, with a Body Mass Index (a ratio of height to weight) of 40 or more – or at least 235 pounds for a 5-foot, 4-inch woman.

Overall, the researchers found the stillbirth rate mirrored the national one – three in 1,000 births. But as the mother’s weight and the fetal age increased, so did the risk of stillbirth. It doubled for moderately obese women, more than doubled with morbid obesity, and tripled with “super” obesity (a BMI of 50 or more).

At full term – between 37 and 42 weeks – the stillbirth risk for the most obese women skyrocketed. At 41 weeks, for example, a super-obese woman was almost 14 times more likely to have a stillbirth than a normal-weight woman. That’s a more powerful link than previous studies have found.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Study finds vegetarians at lower risk of certain diseases

African-American vegetarians are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and even diabetes and high blood pressure, most likely from the healthy eating practices, says a new study from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif.

The study looked at more than 26,000 black Seventh-day Adventists ranging from strict vegetarians to their meat-eating counterparts.

The subjects are part of the Loma Linda University Adventist long-term health study and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study, “Vegetarian diets and cardiovascular risk factors in black members of the Adventist Health Study-2,” is available in the journal, Public Health Nutrition.

Among the many findings, the study found among vegetarians, a nearly 50 percent lower risk for hypertension, and a more than 40 percent less likelihood of obesity.

Loma Linda University is a Seventh-day Adventist institution. The study selected African-Americans from the denomination because members generally have lower rates of alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, factors that could impact a cardiovascular study.

The study showed that black vegetarian Adventists were at less risk for hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure, total cholesterol, and high blood-LDL cholesterol.

The study didn’t establish the cause and effect of the results, only that vegetarians were healthier than non-vegetarians. Researchers said cause and effect will be the target of future studies.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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