Pregnant Women Should Eat Their Fruits and Veggies
Pregnant Women Should Eat Their Fruits and Veggies6/12/2012 10:51 AM
Guest Blog by Drs. Richard Reiss and John DeSesso, Exponent:
Maternal nutrition during pregnancy has long been known to be important for fetal growth and healthy offspring. In contrast, lower birth weights are associated with higher neonatal mortality, risks for cognitive or neurological impairments, and risks for chronic diseases later in life. Fortunately, simply improving one’s diet during pregnancy can improve birth weights and is associated with reduced risk for numerous negative health effects.
Several large studies have found significant associations between maternal fruit and/or vegetable consumption and healthy birth weights and other infant measures such as increased birth length and head circumference (Mikkelsen et al. 2006, Ramón et al. 2009, Timmermans et al. 2012). The largest study by Mikkelson et al. (2006) included 43,585 pregnant women in Denmark. The women who ate the most fruit and vegetables had babies that were, on average, 51 grams heavier at birth, compared to the group with the least fruit and vegetable consumption.
The good news doesn’t stop with healthy birth weights. Numerous studies have also associated fruit and/or vegetable consumption during pregnancy with other positive outcomes, including reduced incidences in offspring for germ cell tumors (Musselman et al. 2010), leukemia (Kwan et al. 2009; Spector et al., 2005), eczema (Miyake et al., 2010), familial retinoblastoma (Orjuela et al. 2005), brain tumors (Bunin et al. 1998; Bunin et al., 2005), gastroschsis (Torfs et al., 1998), spontaneous abortion (Di Cintio et al., 2001), and orofacial cleft (Krapels et al., 2004).
Additionally, a Mediterranean diet or generally health conscious diet during pregnancy, both of which include significant fruit and vegetable consumption, has been associated with reduced risk for high blood pressure during pregnancy (Timmermans et al., 2011), reduced incidence of postpartum depression (Chatzi et al., 2011), and a reduced risk in offspring for spina bifida (Vujkovic et al., 2009).
You may have heard about some recent epidemiologic studies that associate lower birth weights and other outcomes with exposure to a certain type of pesticides (organophosphates). Of course, for conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables, there may be some pesticide residue. However, it is important to remember that the residue levels on fruits and vegetables are very small. In contrast to the nutritional epidemiology studies, the pesticide epidemiologic studies have far fewer participants, and have other substantial methodological limitations. Furthermore, the epidemiologic studies include exposures from other pathways, including home and garden use of pesticides
By far, the balance of the evidence shows that eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables during pregnancy will lead to a healthier baby.
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Bunin GR, Kushi LH, Gallagher PR, Rorke-Adams LB, McBride ML, Cnaan A. 2005. Maternal diet during pregnancy and its association with medulloblastoma in children: a children’s oncology group study (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 16:877-891.
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