A new study shows that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant have a greater risk of having babies with neural tube birth defects if their carbohydrates intake is low.

Neural tube defects are major birth defects of the brain and spine that occur early in pregnancy due to improper closure of the embryonic neural tube.

The study, published on Thursday in the journal Birth Defects Research, found that women with low carbohydrate intake are 30 percent more likely to have babies with neural tube defects.

The defects are malformations of the spine, spinal cord and the absence of major portions of the brain and skull, when compared with women who do not restrict their carbohydrate intake.

This is the first study to evaluate the relationship between low carbohydrate intake and having children with neural tube defects.

“This is concerning because low carbohydrate diets are fairly popular,” said Tania Desrosiers, study lead and research assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina.

Folic acid is an essential nutrient that minimises the risk of neural tube defects.

Desrosiers and her study collaborators found that the dietary intake of folic acid among women with restricted carbohydrate intake to be less than half of other women.



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