HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessChewing sugar-free gum reduces risk of preterm births, says study

Chewing sugar-free gum reduces risk of preterm births, says study

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The World Health Organization estimates that every year 15 million babies are born prematurely or preterm. Preterm babies are more prone to major health issues.

Several studies have found a correlation between poor dental health and an increased risk of preterm birth during the previous several decades.

According to a new study released today, regular usage of xylitol chewing gum beginning pre-or early in pregnancy lowered the number of preterm deliveries considerably. Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in fruits and vegetables that is often used in chewing gum as a sugar alternative.

The study lasted ten years and involved 10,069 women in Malawi, a country in South-Central Africa with the highest rate of preterm deliveries in the world.

Participants signed up willingly and agreed to take part in the study before or within 20 weeks of getting pregnant. Half of the eight health centers were randomized to also distribute xylitol chewing gum to registered research participants, while the other half received health messages encouraging oral health and preterm birth prevention and treatment.

In the four health centers that served as the control group, 5,520 people got basic perinatal and oral health education, including tips on how to reduce the risk of having a baby too soon. The 4,549 enrolled individuals in the other four centers received the same health instruction. They were also given xylitol chewing gum and told to chew it for 10 minutes once a day, preferably twice a day, throughout their pregnancy.

Results showed a significant reduction in preterm birth among those who chewed the xylitol-containing gum (12.6% vs. 16.5%) and fewer low birth weight babies, those weighing 5.5 pounds or less(8.9% vs. 12.9%), among the 9,670 participants who were available for contact during the up to six years of follow-up. Participants’ oral health also improved as a result of the study.

“Using xylitol chewing gum as an intervention prior to 20 weeks of pregnancy reduced preterm births, and specifically late preterm births between 34 to 37 weeks,” said the study’s lead author Kjersti Aagaard. “When we analyzed by birth weight, instead of estimated gestational age at delivery, we similarly showed a significant improvement in the birth weight with one-third fewer low birth weight babies being born.”

Image Credit: Getty

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