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Low maternal cholesterol linked to premature birth

Pregnant women who have very low cholesterol levels face a high risk of delivering their baby prematurely, researchers suggest.

It has previously been demonstrated that excessive maternal cholesterol levels can increase premature birth risk.

But a team led by the National Human Genome Research Institute has confirmed that too little cholesterol can also lead to premature birth.

A study of 1,058 women and their newborns found that 21% of women with the lowest cholesterol levels gave birth prematurely compared with only 5% of women with moderate cholesterol levels.

“Based on our initial findings, it appears that too little cholesterol may be as bad as too much cholesterol during pregnancy, but it is too early to extrapolate these results to the general population,” said study author Max Muenke.

“For now, the best advice for pregnant women is to follow the guidance of their health care providers when it comes to diet and exercise.”

She adds that the right amount of cholesterol is fundamental for good health, before and after birth, saying: “During pregnancy, cholesterol is critical for both the placenta and the developing baby, including the brain.”

National Human Genome Research Institute Scientific Director Eric Green said: “This study sheds important light on the intricate biological mechanisms at work during human gestation.

“In light of these findings, researchers have a renewed impetus to establish the genetic and environmental causes of low cholesterol levels because of its relevance to pregnancy.”

National Human Genome Research Institute