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Dietary patterns and alcohol consumption during pregnancy

Large general population surveys have indicated that heavy regular and episodic alcohol consumption are associated with lower intakes of fruits and vegetables, and higher intakes of processed and fried meat, according to the authors of a paper published in the Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Regarding pregnant women, this is of particular concern as both alcohol intake and inadequate maternal nutrition are independently associated with adverse fetal outcomes.

The researchers conducted an analysis to determine associations between maternal dietary patterns and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Data was drawn from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, and included 9,839 women who provided details of alcohol consumption at 18 weeks' gestation and diet at 32 weeks' gestation. Dietary patterns were derived from the food frequency questionnaire data. Associations between alcohol consumption and dietary patterns were determined using multiple linear regression, adjusted for various sociodemographic and lifestyle factors.

After adjustment, drinking >/= 1 unit/d during the first trimester (beta = 0.23 [95% CI: 0.08, 0.38]; p = 0.002) and binge drinking (>/= 4 units in 1 day) during the first half of pregnancy (beta = 0.14 [95% CI: 0.07, 0.21]; p < 0.0001) were associated with greater adherence to the "Processed" dietary pattern (high intakes of processed meat and low intakes of fruit and vegetables). Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption ( < / = 1 drink/d) during the first trimester was associated with greater adherence to the "Health conscious" dietary pattern (high intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish) (beta = 0.09 [95% CI: 0.04, 0.14]; p < 0.0001).

The researchers conclude that two important components of health behaviour during pregnancy appear to be related: greater consumption of processed foods associated with heavier alcohol consumption, and healthier dietary choices associated with light-to-moderate alcohol intake. Potential synergistic effects of these behaviours may have implications for maternal and fetal health and warrant further investigation. A more holistic approach to addressing health behaviours in women of reproductive age is required, they argue.

Source: Dietary patterns and alcohol consumption during pregnancy: secondary analysis of Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Coathup V; Northstone K; Gray R; Wheeler S; Smith L. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Published early online 19 April 2017.

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