Low Maternal Cholesterol Tied to Premature Birth
Pregnant women who have very low cholesterol levels may face a greater risk of delivering their babies prematurely than women with regular cholesterol levels, according to a study by the National Human Genome Research Institute.
Akinso: Pregnant women who have very low cholesterol levels may face a greater risk of delivering their babies prematurely than women with regular cholesterol levels, according to a study by the National Human Genome Research Institute. The study was published in the October issue of the journal Pediatrics, and although it confirms previous findings that very high levels of maternal cholesterol can increase the risk of premature birth, a surprising twist in the current study shows that low maternal cholesterol levels also may lead to adverse outcomes according to Dr. Max Muenke, the study's senior author.
Muenke: The interesting finding was—and we were very surprised about this—that women who had very low cholesterol had babies that were born too early. The most interesting finding in this was that we found the significant 4-fold increase in premature birth only in white women and not in African American women. What we could confirm in our study was that women who have high cholesterol that they also have babies born prematurely but this was already known before we started our study.
Akinso: In the study of 1,058 South Carolina women and their newborns, researchers found about 5 percent of the women with cholesterol levels in the moderate range of 159-261 milligrams per deciliter gave birth prematurely. But between white and African American women, there was a difference in the rate of premature births which Dr. Muenke discusses.
Muenke: What we found was in healthy white and healthy African American women at ages between 21 and 34, we found that in both groups women who had low cholesterol had babies born who were with a lower birth rate. What was different in both groups was that among white women babies were born earlier; that is born before 37 weeks, where as African American women we did not find this. At this point we do not know where this difference comes from and this is something we would like to explore in future studies.
Akinso: Premature birth is a major cause of infant death and raises the risk of many potentially disabling conditions, including cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, blindness, deafness and respiratory illness. Dr. Muenke said in light of these findings researchers have a renewed drive to establish the genetic and environmental causes of low cholesterol levels because of its relevance to pregnancy. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Max Muenke
Topic: Premature Birth