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Estimation of Total Usual Dietary Intakes of Pregnant Women in the United States

Bailey RL, Pac SG, Fulgoni VL 3rd, Reidy KC, Catalano PM (2019) JAMA Netw Open.  2019 Jun;2(6): e195967. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.5967. 

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Nutrition during pregnancy is a critical dimension not only for women's health but also for the lifelong health of the offspring. Very limited national data exist on the usual dietary intakes of pregnant women.


To estimate total usual nutrient intakes (from foods and dietary supplements) and the population prevalence of meeting or exceeding the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Dietary Reference Intake recommendations among pregnant US women.


A cross-sectional analysis was performed of a nationally representative sample of 1003 pregnant US women aged 20 to 40 years from the 2001-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.


Usual dietary intakes assessed by two 24-hour dietary recalls (including dietary supplements) adjusted for within-person variation using the National Cancer Institute method.


The proportion of women at risk of inadequate dietary intake as determined by the Estimated Average Requirement, the proportion of women assumed to have adequate dietary intake as determined by the Adequate Intake, and the proportion of women at risk of excess dietary intake as determined by the Tolerable Upper Intake Level. Demographic differences between pregnant and nonpregnant women were compared with t tests.


As representative of the US population, this sample of 1003 pregnant women had a mean (SE) age of 28.0 (0.3) years, was predominantly non-Hispanic white (mean [SE], 54.5% [3.1%]), and was at above 185% of the income to poverty ratio (mean [SE], 56.8% [3.0%]). Most pregnant women used a dietary supplement (mean [SE], 69.8% [2.3%]). A total of 10% or more of pregnant women had a total usual intake that is less than the Estimated Average Requirement for magnesium (mean [SE], 47.5% [2.8%]), vitamin D (mean [SE], 46.4% [2.7%]), vitamin E (mean [SE], 43.3% [2.7%]), iron (mean [SE], 36.2% [2.8%]), vitamin A (mean [SE], 15.5% [2.1%]), folate (mean [SE], 16.4% [1.6%]), calcium (mean [SE], 12.9% [2.4%]), vitamin C (mean [SE], 11.5% [1.9%]), vitamin B6 (mean [SE], 11.5% [1.5%]), and zinc (mean [SE], 10.9% [1.9%]). Some pregnant women exceeded the Adequate Intake for potassium (mean [SE], 41.7% [2.9%]), choline (mean [SE], 7.9% [3.2%]), and vitamin K (mean [SE], 47.9% [4.3%]). Most women exceeded the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for sodium (mean [SE], 95.0% [2.2%]), and some women exceeded the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of folic acid (mean [SE], 33.4% [2.8%]), iron (mean [SE], 27.9% [2.8%]), calcium (mean [SE], 3.0% [0.8%]), and zinc (mean [SE], 7.1% [1.6%]). For iron, the prevalence of an at-risk intake from foods alone was lower among women who used supplements (mean [SE], 80.3% [4.3%]) than those who did not use supplements (mean [SE], 95.3% [7.3%]); however, supplement use increased the risk of excessive iron and folic acid intakes given the amounts that are being consumed from supplemental products.


This study suggests that a significant number of pregnant women are not meeting recommendations for vitamins D, C, A, B6, K, and E, as well as folate, choline, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc even with the use of dietary supplements. Almost all pregnant women in this study were at risk of excessive consumption of sodium, and many were at risk of excessive consumption of folic acid and iron. Improved dietary guidance to help pregnant women meet but not exceed dietary recommendations is warranted.


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