Down Syndrome Testing and Vegetarians

In vegetarian women, beta HCG levels are normally higher than in non-vegetarian women, which can result in false positive screening for Down syndrome.

Dr. Greene’s take on Down Syndrome testing for vegetarian moms…

Pregnant women who are vegetarians may be unnecessarily worried by prenatal screening tests, according to a study from the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taipei. The study followed the pregnancies of more than 200 women, half of them vegetarians. Results were published in the February 2004 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Beta HCG, the same substance used to detect pregnancies in the first place, is also used to look for Down syndrome.

In vegetarian women, levels are normally higher than in non-vegetarian women (and to a lesser extent, this is also true of alpha fetoprotein – AFP — levels). This results in false positive screening tests about 3 times more often for vegetarian women. Until someone calculates normal test ranges for the two different groups, vegetarian women can breathe just a bit easier while waiting for confirming test results.

What we eat affects us in more ways than we imagine!

Published on: April 08, 2004
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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