RowanSOM researcher receives $1.8M grant to find role of diet in preterm delivery in minority women

A researcher at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) has received a $1.8 million federal grant to determine the role diet plays in the higher incidence of preterm delivery among African American and Hispanic women. Preterm delivery is the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States and one of the primary contributors to long-term neurological disabilities in children. Dr. Xinhua Chen, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at RowanSOM, is the lead investigator for the five-year study that is being funded through a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, an agency of the National Institutes of Health.

"The incidence of preterm delivery is 60 percent higher in African American women, and 40 percent higher among Hispanic women," Dr. Chen said. "Dietary fat intake can influence the levels of free fatty acids (FFAs) in the blood, which, in turn, can alter vascular inflammation, an underlying cause of many health problems, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Our study will be the first to examine if maternal FFA-related vascular inflammation is a factor in the higher rate of preterm delivery and other pregnancy complications among minority women."

Dr. Chen will be joined by fellow RowanSOM researchers Drs. Theresa Scholl, Robert Steer, T. Peter Stein and Keith Williams on the project. Their project will examine data and blood samples collected over a 10-year period (1996-2007) from 2,800 healthy, low income pregnant women in three ethnic groups (African American, Hispanic and White). The data and samples are from a large epidemiological study in Camden, NJ, initiated by Dr. Scholl. The investigators will determine whether: maternal FFAs correlate to dietary fat intake; there are ethnic differences in biomarkers for inflammation; and if these differences give rise to increased levels of preterm delivery and preeclampsia, a sudden sharp rise in blood pressure and swelling that occurs during pregnancy and is much more common in African Americans.

"Data from this study will provide an intriguing insight into the amount and type of dietary fats and their impact on pregnancy outcomes," Dr. Chen said. "Modifying dietary fat may be an inexpensive and essential tool in reducing the significant ethnic disparity in adverse pregnancy outcomes."


Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine


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