Intake of Sweets, Snacks and Soft Drinks Predicts Weight Gain in Obese Pregnant Women: Detailed Analysis of the Results of a Randomised Controlled Trial

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 20;10(7):e0133041. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133041. eCollection 2015.


Background: Lifestyle interventions targeting obese pregnant women often result in modest reduction in gestational weight gain, pregnancy complications and related risk factors. Examining adherence to the intervention can, however, provide valuable information on the importance of the different factors targeted.

Objective: To evaluate improvements and relevance of different dietary factors targeted with respect to gestational weight gain in a 3-arm Randomised Controlled Trial (n=342) among obese pregnant women with BMI≥30 kg/m2.

Methods: Randomisation 1:1:1 to either hypocaloric Mediterranean type of diet and physical activity intervention (D+PA); physical activity intervention alone (PA); or control (C). Diet was assessed at baseline (weeks 11-14) and endpoint (weeks 36-37) using a validated food frequency questionnaire.

Results: During the intervention women in the D+PA group significantly lowered their intakes of added sugars and saturated fat and increased their protein intake by ~1% of total energy compared to controls. Of these dietary variables only intakes of added sugar appeared to be related to GWG, while no association was observed for saturated fat or protein. Further analyses revealed that foods that contributed to intake of added sugars, including sweets, snacks, cakes, and soft drinks were strongly associated with weight gain, with women consuming sweets ≥2/day having 5.4 kg (95% CI 2.1-8.7) greater weight gain than those with a low (<1wk) intake. The results for soft drinks were more conflicting, as women with high weight gain tended to favour artificially sweetened soft drinks.

Conclusion: In our sample of obese pregnant women, craving for sweets, snacks, and soft drinks strongly predicts GWG. Emphasis on reducing intakes of these foods may be more relevant for limiting gestational weight gain than encouraging strict compliance to more specific diets.

Trial registration: NCT01345149.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Carbonated Beverages
  • Diet, Mediterranean*
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Snacks
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Weight Gain*


  • Sweetening Agents

Associated data


Grant support

“Sygekassernes Helsefond” and “Brødrene Hartmann Fonden” were not involved in data collection, management or analysis of the data, nor the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. The Danish Council for Strategic Research (09-067124, Centre for Fetal Programming): to finance processing and development of questionnaire data regarding dietary intake and physical activity in pregnancy.