Women’s bodies undergo a wide range of changes during pregnancy. Physical and behavioural changes are apparent, while others remain invisible. A new study from India underlines the importance of monitoring the biochemical and nutritional levels of pregnant women in order to prevent low birthweight in babies.
By Hari Shankar
Doubtless, a mother’s diet, not only during but also before pregnancy, has a significant impact on the growing baby. Indian culture, however, with its marked diversity of ingredients and eating habits, displays high heterogeneity concerning the intake of nourishing food. Malnourishment and micronutrient deficiencies are persisting problems in the country.
What does this mean for pregnant women and their babies?
A recent investigation by Hari Shankar from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi and co-authors showed that a less nutritious diet (i.e. below medical recommendations) during pregnancy resulted in low levels of micronutrients in women’s bodies. This is critical, since micronutrients, which include vitamins as well as minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium, are important for the healthy growth and development of the foetus in the womb.
In their research paper, published in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, Shankar and colleagues highlight the significant role of a mother’s diet in supporting the nutritional demands of the baby and avoiding the delivery of an underweight baby. The longer the mother’s micronutrient levels are sub-optimal, the more she is prone to delivering an underweight newborn.
The researchers believe that “the obtained results will be beneficial for authorities to take appropriate steps in the direction of enhancing the nutritive values of food by fortification, creating awareness and implementing supplementation schemes in India.”
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