WOMEN'S HEALTH
July 3, 2019

The Secret to Eating for Two

Eating a diet rich in nutrition is important for moms-to-be. It sets the stage for the health of their child. Some women over-supplement; others eat too many empty calories. Many eat too much salt.

Eating a healthy diet when you are pregnant is not just important, it’s imperative. The need for many nutrients increases, and to be sure you are taking in enough of the right vitamins and minerals your baby needs, you may need to eat more calories. Just be certain they are full of vitamins and minerals. Choosing nutritious foods during pregnancy not only helps to assure proper growth and development of your baby, it keeps you healthy.

Many pregnant women's diets leave a lot to be desired, a study from Purdue University finds. In some cases, moms-to-be are lacking certain essential nutrients; in others, the issue is that they are over-consuming supplements in an effort to deliver the best nutrition to their unborn child.

Nutrition from conception into the first two years of life is critical for the lifelong health and well-being of your child.

Just over 1,000 women between the ages of 20 and 40 who took part in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001 to 2014 were studied. Women were interviewed about their diets and use of dietary supplements.

The results were concerning. About 10 percent of women were getting less than the recommended amounts of vitamins A, B6, C, D, E and folate. They also lacked adequate supplies of the minerals magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and zinc.

On the other hand, some pregnant women were consuming too much vitamin K, potassium, calcium, zinc, folic acid and iron. Nearly all of the women were eating too much sodium.

About 70 percent of women used dietary supplements, mostly prenatal vitamins. Eighty to 95 percent of women would have failed to meet the requirements for iron without supplements. However, the use of supplements increased the risk of consuming too much iron, folic acid and other nutrients.

The results are in no way a surprise because most Americans don’t follow dietary guidelines or meet recommended intakes of nutrients. But pregnancy is a critical time, and it’s important to know what pregnant American women are eating to improve the design of prenatal vitamins and to provide pregnant women with better dietary guidance.

Nutrition from conception into the first two years of life is critical for lifelong health and well-being. Ideally, nutrient intake should be met with a diet that includes a variety of food sources; however, supplement use has its place.

Women who are concerned about their nutritional status going into pregnancy should consult with a registered dietitian/nutritionist who can assess their current diet and supplement usage and provide personalized recommendations.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are in the process of being drawn up and will address nutritional needs during pregnancy.

The study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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