Major dietary patterns in pregnancy and fetal growth

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;62(4):463-70. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602745. Epub 2007 Mar 28.


Objectives: To investigate possible associations between maternal diet during pregnancy and fetal growth.

Method: Factor analysis was used to explore dietary patterns among pregnant women. The association between maternal dietary patterns and fetal growth (in terms of small for gestational age, SGA) was investigated by logistic regression. Prospective cohort study, including information on 44 612 women in Denmark.

Results: Two major dietary patterns were defined: the first pattern was characterized by red and processed meat, high-fat dairy, and the second pattern was characterized by intake of vegetables, fruits, poultry and fish. Women were classified into three classes according to their diet: the first class had high intake of foods of the first dietary pattern, and was classified as 'the Western diet', the second class preferred foods of the second pattern and was classified as the 'Health Conscious'; and the third one had eaten foods of both patterns, and was classified as the 'Intermediate'. The odds ratio of having a small for gestational-age infant (with a birth weight below the 2.5th percentile for gestational age and gender) was 0.74 (95% CI 0.64-0.86) for women in the Health Conscious class compared with women in the Western Diet class. The analyses were adjusted for parity, maternal smoking, age, height, pre-pregnancy weight and father's height.

Conclusions: Our results indicated that a diet in pregnancy, based on red and processed meat and high-fat diary, was associated with increased risk for SGA. Further studies are warranted to identify specific macro-, or micronutrients that may be underlying these associations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dairy Products / adverse effects
  • Denmark
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Meat / adverse effects
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Dietary Fats