Papers And Originals

Spina Bifida and Potatoes

Br Med J 1973; 3 doi: (Published 04 August 1973) Cite this as: Br Med J 1973;3:251
  1. C. A. Clarke,
  2. Olive M. McKendrick,
  3. P. M. Sheppard


    The results of a retrospective survey of the dietetic and other habits of the mothers of 83 children with spina bifida (mostly schoolchildren with meningomyelocele) were compared with 85 carefully matched controls. The survey was particularly concerned with the consumption of or contact with potatoes by the mothers. No significant differences were found in the amount of potatoes eaten as reported by the mothers (mean for spina bifida group 3·60 1b (1630 g), and for controls 3·98 1b (1800 g) per week). Of the seven other comparisons associated with potatoes only one (obtaining them from the chip shop or restaurant) was significant, the mothers of the children with spina bifida being more likely to obtain some of them from this source.

    When examining other aspects of diet it was found that the mothers of spina bifida children reported a lower consumption of a number of important foods, though the deficiency was not significant in any instance. These mothers were also significantly more likely to have been prescribed drugs other than iron and vitamins early in pregnancy and to have reported a wider variety of illnesses.

    The results in general do not support the hypothesis that the quantity of potatoes taken is important. They do lend support to the view that poor dietary habits are associated with a higher incidence of spina bifida irrespective of social class. Furthermore, general ill health in the mother may be implicated.