Disparities exist between national food group recommendations and the dietary intakes of women
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BACKGROUND: Preconception and pregnancy dietary intakes can influence the health of future generations. In this study we compared the food intakes of reproductive-aged women by pregnancy status, to current Australian recommendations.
METHODS: Data are from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, younger cohort aged 25-30 years in 2003, with self-reported status as pregnant (n = 606), trying to conceive (n = 454), given birth in the last 12 months (n = 829) or other (n = 5597). Diet was assessed using a validated 74-item food frequency questionnaire. Food group servings and nutrient intakes were compared to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) and Australian Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs).
RESULTS: No women met all AGHE food group recommendations. Highest adherence rates [mean (95% CI) servings/day] were for meat [85%, 1.9(1.8-1.9)], fruit [44%, 2.1(2.1-2.2)] and dairy [35%, 1.8(1.8-1.9)], with < 14% meeting remaining recommendations. Women who achieved NRVs (folate, iron, calcium, zinc, fibre) for pregnancy, breastfeeding and adult life stages were 1.5%, 3.3% and 13.7%, respectively. Compared to AGHE, women consumed more servings of fruit (4.9 vs 4.0;P = 0.034) and dairy (3.4 vs 2.0;P = 0.006) to achieve pregnancy NRVs; more dairy (2.9 vs 2.0;P = 0.001), less fruit (3.9 vs 5.0;P < .001) and vegetables (3.4 vs 7.0;P < .001) to achieve breastfeeding NRVs; more fruit (3.6 vs 3.0;P < .001), dairy (2.5 vs 2.0;P < .001), meat (1.8 vs 1.5;P = 0.015), less vegetables (3.6 vs 5.0;P < .001) to achieve adult NRVs.
CONCLUSIONS: The AGHE does not align with contemporary diets of Australian women or enable them to meet all NRVs. Current tools to guide food consumption by women during pregnancy require revision.