Calorie needs during pregnancy higher than thought

July 21, 2004 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Calorie needs during pregnancy higher than thought

Pregnancy is associated with a rise in calorie needs to support adequate weight gain and increases in metabolism. This increased need is not completely offset by reductions in physical activity, so women need to compensate by increasing the amount of calories in their diet.

New study findings suggest that the dietary energy requirements during pregnancy of a healthy normal-weight woman may be higher than previously thought.

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston note that the amount of extra dietary energy needed during pregnancy remains controversial because of conflicting data on maternal fat deposits and putative reductions in the mother's physical activity as pregnancy advances.

To investigate, they evaluated the energy requirements of 17 healthy underweight, 34 normal-weight, and 12 overweight women. This was done at 0, 9, 22, and 36 weeks of pregnancy and at 27 weeks after delivery.

Researchers report that the energy costs of pregnancy differed significantly by weight group. For normal-weight women, the extra energy needs during the first trimester of pregnancy were negligible. However, these needs rose to 350 additional calories per day in the second trimester and to 500 additional calories per day in the third trimester.

These estimated energy needs are higher than the 1989 US recommendations for energy intake in pregnant women. Reductions in physical activity, they conclude, do not totally compensate for the increased needs of metabolism and energy deposited in maternal and fetal tissues; thus, increases in dietary energy intakes are required as pregnancy progresses.

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