Dietary Glycemic Load and Risk of Birth Defects

This study used the Pregnancy Health Interview Study (Birth Defects Study) data to examine whether birth defect risks are associated with high dietary glycemic intakes (i.e., foods that raise blood sugar). In our first analysis, we found that dietary glycemic intakes approximately doubled the risk of neural tube defects. Its findings are described in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Our second analysis looked at 11 specific birth defects among 1,921 infants. Nine defect groups (craniosynostosis, gastroschisis, hypospadias, limb reduction, omphalocele, orofacial clefts, renal agenesis, small intestinal defects, and tracheoesophageal fistula) were not associated with high dietary glycemic intakes. High dietary glycemic intake was associated with a 3-fold increased risk of amniotic bands and with a 2.3-fold increased risk of anorectal defects.

Investigators and Study Staff

Martha M. Werler, Sc.D.
Principal Investigator

Mahsa Yazdy
Data Analyst

Study Details

Source of Funding:

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development


Yazdy MM, Liu S, Mitchell AA, Werler MM. Maternal dietary glycemic intake and the risk of neural tube defects. Am J Epidemiol 2010;171(4):407-14. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp395. PMCID: PMC2842193.