Vast majority of pregnant women lack optimal nutrition in their diet

PITTSBURGH — Women who are pregnant are not likely to have a diet optimal to that pregnancy, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Many healthy maternal diets have been linked to reduced risks of preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, preeclampsia and maternal obesity.

"Unlike many other pregnancy and birth risk factors, diet is something we can improve," stated lead author Lisa Bodnar, associate professor and vice chair of research in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology. "While attention should be given to improving nutritional counseling at doctor appointments, overarching societal and policy changes that help women to make healthy dietary choices may be more effective and efficient."

Bodnar and her colleagues analyzed the results of questionnaires completed by 7,511 women who were between six and 14 weeks pregnant and enrolled in The Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers to Be, which followed women who enrolled in the study at one of eight U.S. medical centers.

The women reported on their dietary habits during the three months around conception.

The diets were assessed using the Healthy Eating Index-2010, which measures 12 key aspects of diet quality, including adequacy of intake for key food groups, as well as intake of refined grains, salt and empty calories (all calories from solid fats and sugars, plus calories from alcohol beyond a moderate level).  When scores were broken down into the 12 aspects of diet, fewer than 10% of the women met the dietary guideline for the whole grains, fatty acids, sodium or empty calories categories.

Approximately 34% of the calories the women consumed were from empty calories. Top sources of energy were sugar-sweetened beverages, pasta dishes and grain desserts.

"Our findings mirror national nutrition and dietary trends," Bodnar suggested. "The diet quality gap among non-pregnant people is thought to be a consequence of many factors, including access to and price of healthy foods, knowledge of a healthy diet and pressing needs that may take priority over a healthy diet," she said. "Future research needs to determine if improving pre-pregnancy diet leads to better pregnancy and birth outcomes. If so, then we need to explore and test ways to improve the diets for everyone, particularly women likely to become pregnant."
 

Login or Register to post a comment.