CAN MATERNAL DIET AT CONCEPTION CAUSE PREMATURITY?
New research indicates that many cases of prematurityone of the strongest predictors for later academic, social, and behavioral problemsresult from missing nutrients in mothers’ diets before and at the time of conception. Studying sheep, Frank Bloomfield and colleagues found that half of the animals put on a moderately restricted diet around the time of conception had premature offspring, compared to none of a control group allowed to eat a normal amount of food. The researchers put 10 ewes on restricted diets for 60 days before they mated and 30 days afterward. The diet lowered the animals’ body weight by 15 percent. Compared to 8 sheep fed normal diets, the “dieting” sheep delivered an average of one week earlier (139 days vs. 146 days). In addition, while both groups of offspring were of normal weight, the offspring of the limited-diet sheep were sicklier. Peter Gluckman, head of the institute that sponsored the study, commented that the research shows that “a mild, relatively unint