Maternal diet can result in exposure to environmental contaminants including dioxins which may influence foetal growth. We investigated the association between maternal diet and birth outcomes by defining a dioxin-rich diet. We used validated food frequency questionnaires to assess the diet of pregnant women from Greece, Spain, United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway and estimated plasma dioxin-like activity by the Dioxin-Responsive Chemically Activated LUciferase eXpression (DR-CALUX®) bioassay in 604 maternal blood samples collected at delivery. We applied reduced rank regression to identify a dioxin-rich dietary pattern based on dioxin-like activity (DR-CALUX®) levels in maternal plasma, and calculated a dioxin-diet score as an estimate of adherence to this dietary pattern. In the five country population, dioxin-diet score was characterised by high consumption of red and white meat, lean and fatty fish, low-fat dairy and low consumption of salty snacks and high-fat cheese, during pregnancy. The upper tertile of the dioxin-diet score was associated with a change in birth weight of -121g (95% confidence intervals: -232, -10g) compared to the lower tertile after adjustment for confounders. A small non-significant reduction in gestational age was also observed (-1.4days, 95% CI: -3.8, 1.0days). Our results suggest that maternal diet might contribute to the exposure of the foetus to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds and may be related to reduced birth weight. More studies are needed to develop updated dietary guidelines for women of reproductive age, aiming to the reduction of dietary exposure to persistent organic pollutants as dioxins and dioxin-like compounds.
Keywords: Birth weight; Cohort study; DR-CALUX; Dietary patterns; Dioxins; Pregnancy.
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