New Research highlights importance of preconception nutrition

17 April 2018

A new series of articles published in the Lancet today have further strengthened the evidence around the impact of preconception diet, nutrition and lifestyle of parents on their children.

Using data from 509 women of reproductive age (18-42) in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the report authors estimate that many UK women are not nutritionally prepared for pregnancy, and 96% of women in that age group have iron and folate dietary intakes below the recommendation for pregnancy (14.8mg per day, and 400µg per day, respectively).

The research reinforces the need for nutritional advice and support for women trying to conceive from qualified professionals such as dietitians. Not only do women need to improve iron and folate status but other factors such as obesity, caffeine intake and malnutrition are shown to increase the risk of various diseases in unborn children.

The report authors encourage a range of interventions at the public health level as well as at the individual level, which span the whole life course. They emphasise that interventions need to begin early in the preconception period, if not before. This is particularly important when up to 40% of pregnancies are thought to be unplanned.

The BDA strongly supports the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid in order to increase the intake of folate and reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) in pregnancy, which currently affect around 16 families a week in the UK.

Notes to editor:

  • The British Dietetic Association (BDA), founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 9,000 members.
  • Dietitians are highly qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. They are statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), alongside other Allied Health Professions.
  • Dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. They work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government and global industry to local communities and individuals.

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