Recently, a paper published in the Journal of Birth Defects Research caused quite an uproar and rightfully so. Unfortunately media uncritically summed it up massively (here, here, here, here, there and everywhere), quoting the gist of the paper, titled “Low carbohydrate diets may increase risk of neural tube defects” (Desrosiers et al.).
Reading research papers is not as straight-forward as it seems and requires vast knowledge, not only on the topic investigated but also on methods, logic etc. This particular paper is a fine example of how not to make conclusions, how not to form false paper titles and on the side of the people in the media and blogs, how not to read the science papers. Full of methodological errors (read the scathing reviews by Dr. Zoe Harcombe and Dr. Richard Feinman), what the researchers could claim is that lack of folate increases the risk of neural tube defects. Any pregnant woman should take note and especially if they decide not to eat folic acid fortified foods (most of them fall in the category “high carb”). Foods, rich in folate, should be part of every LCHF attempt: leafy veggies and poultry offal plus regular dose of yeast.
It should be emphasized that the issue of low-fat diet during pregnancy is not so much a question of macronutrients ratio, but the question of sufficient intake of micronutrients. Carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient, but vitamins and minerals are.
So what’s the best thing to do?
Enjoy food rich in vitamins and minerals: free range meats and organic vegetables. In cases like pregnancy, stress, illness, heavy workout routines – add the micronutrients by choosing a good supplement.
DESROSIERS, T.A. et al. Low carbohydrate diets may increase risk of neural tube defects. Birth Defects Research, 10.1002/bdr2.1198
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