UPBEAT: looking at the relation of mothers’ diets with social and demographic factors

Professor Lucilla Poston, Mr Paul Seed, Ms Angela Flynn, Dr Louise Goff, the UPBEAT consortium

Tommy’s researchers have been studying the effects of social and demographic factors on the diets of obese women, as well as looking at how women changed their diets in response to UPBEAT.

The women who took part in UPBEAT had poor diets early in pregnancy, and generally didn’t follow healthy eating recommendations. Many ate too much saturated fat while not getting enough of nutrients important during pregnancy like iron, calcium and Vitamin D.

Women in the 'intervention' group of UPBEAT showed that the trial was successful in helping women eat more healthily. Women in this group ate less food with a high glycaemic index (GI), or large amounts of saturated fat. Instead, they ate more healthy foods such as protein and fibre. In general, women switched from unhealthy eating patterns – with lots of processed food and snacks – to healthier ones. These positive changes continued through pregnancy and after birth.

The group of women who took part UPBEAT was both ethnically and socially diverse: this meant that we could also look at if these factors affected women’s diets. Researchers found that women who were younger, less educated, or living in poorer areas generally had unhealthier diets.  Women of different ethnicities also tended to follow different eating patterns. Certain patterns, for example eating more processed food, also made it more likely that mothers would develop diabetes during pregnancy.

The results of this study have shown that obese pregnant women face challenges in changing how they eat, but has also shown that they are both willing and able to make these changes. This research could also help offer personalised care to help obese women meet diet recommendations.

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This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by Tommy's, the National Institute for Health Research, Chief Scientist Office Scotland, and Guy's and St Thomas' Charity

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