Higher intake of fruits and vegetables in pregnancy is associated with birth size

Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2011 Sep;42(5):1214-23.


Maternal nutrition has a programming effect on fetal growth. This cross-sectional study investigated the association between maternal micronutrient, fruit and vegetable intake with birth size. Nutrient and food intake were examined using a validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. One hundred twenty-one pregnant women at 28 to 38 weeks gestation aged 19-40 years, were recruited from the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital, Malaysia. Birth weight, length and head circumference were obtained from the medical records. Data were analyzed using multiple linear regression. Results indicate no significant association between any of the measured micronutrients and birth size. However, 2 of the 6 vegetable subgroups and those consumed fruit during pregnancy had children whose birth size was significantly associated with consumption. An increase of 10 g of leafy vegetables per day was associated with a 1.78 cm increase in head circumference (p = 0.04), and tuber vegetable intake was associated with birth length (beta = 0.21, p = 0.03) and head circumference (beta = 0.21, p = 0.01). Fruit intake was associated with birth weight (beta = 0.19, p = 0.04), birth length (beta = 0.20, p = 0.04) and head circumference (beta = 0.19, p = 0.03). The lack of association between maternal nutrient intake and fetal growth and the significant association between fruit and vegetable intake and birth size suggests the existence of other micronutrients and phytochemicals present in foods that play an important role in birth size. The types of nutrients and their roles in birth size warrant further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Linear Models
  • Malaysia
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Vegetables*
  • Young Adult