Influence of alternative lifestyles on self-reported body weight and health characteristics in women

Eur J Public Health. 2014 Apr;24(2):321-7. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckt045. Epub 2013 May 2.


Background: Alternative lifestyles are often associated with distinct practices with respect to nutrition, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use and usage of complementary medicine. Evidence concerning effects of these lifestyle-related practices on health status is still fragmentary.

Objective: To describe maternal health characteristics related to alternative lifestyles, with emphasis on body-weight status, during pregnancy and maternity periods.

Methods: We compared self-reported health-related features of mothers with alternative lifestyles and conventional lifestyles during pregnancy and maternity period in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. This cohort comprises two recruitment groups of mother-infant pairs, one with a conventional (no selection based on lifestyle, n = 2333), the other with an alternative lifestyle (selected via organic food shops, anthroposophic clinicians and midwives, anthroposophic under-five clinics, Rudolf Steiner schools and relevant magazines, n = 485). Mothers in the alternative group more frequently chose organic foods, adhered to specific living rules, practised vegetarianism and identified themselves with anthroposophy.

Results: Mothers in the alternative group showed lower BMI and lower prevalence of overweight and obesity than the conventional group, before pregnancy as well as 4-5 years after delivery. This difference was partly retained after adjusting for potential confounders. Furthermore, women in the alternative group had a lower prevalence of pregnancy-related hypertension, more often started breastfeeding and gave exclusive and prolonged breastfeeding for a longer period. Finally, they smoked less often, but more often drunk alcohol during pregnancy.

Conclusion: The results suggest that an alternative lifestyle is associated with favourable body weight and with several differences in other health features.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / epidemiology
  • Life Style*
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Smoking / epidemiology