Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Milk and Protein Intake by Pregnant Women Affects Growth of Foetus

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Milk and Protein Intake by Pregnant Women Affects Growth of Foetus

Article excerpt


A developing foetus needs protein to build the cells of its body. The maternal diet supplies all the proteins that a baby needs; so, if the diet of a pregnant woman is deficient, her baby can suffer. The baby grows more rapidly during the second and third trimester; hence, the protein levels during the latter half of the pregnancy is more important than earlier in the development of foetus. Epidemiological (1-3) and experimental (4-7) studies show that the increased consumption of protein during pregnancy resulted in foetal growth retardation. In rodent and sheep, higher pre-gestational protein consumption leads to impaired foetal growth as well (8-10).

A restricted-protein diet during conception also causes growth retardation; it is associated with reduced nutrient supply to the foetus (2,11). Findings of rodent studies also show that low protein intake during gestation can result in low birthweight and subsequently leads to various metabolic disturbances (12). Milk is also an efficient food for the delivery of many nutrients (proteins, minerals, vitamins, or combination of these) essential for foetal development and, therefore, of potential importance for linear foetal growth. Consumption of milk also increases blood concentration of insulin, like growth factor I (IGF I) which is a major determinant of growth (13). There are a number of studies, including prospective and retrospective observational and randomized intervention trials which revealed that there is a positive association between intake of dairy products, especially milk, with birth parameters of the offspring. Amongst a mass of evidence in literature, only Chang et al. (14) established the role of milk on growth of femur length of foetus, showing that higher milk intake is related to better growth of femur length of foetus. This cross-sectional study is performed to assess the role of maternal milk and protein intake with its lower and upper limit during conception on growth of foetus and to highlight the potential role and net effect of milk and protein with reference to limited and excess amounts on growth of foetus during gestational period.


This cross-sectional study was carried out in Pune, Maharashtra state, India. Pregnant mothers (n=156) with 504 ultrasound measurements of the abdomen-circumference (AC), head-circumference (HC), biparietal diameter (BPD), and femur length (FL) from 16 to 38 weeks of gestation were identified through antenatal clinics of two hospitals during 2009. The respondents were approached in their last trimester of pregnancy, and majority of them were in the last month of pregnancy, which was close to time of delivery. To prevent dropout of subjects, normal mothers with healthy foetus were selected. In addition, baby's birth-record consisted of baby's head-circumference, birth-length, birthweight and gender of the newborns available in the obstetric department of related hospital. The maternal sonography reports were also available in their documents, to make better possibility to recruit the subjects. Moreover, mothers were not aware about the gender of foetus during gestation. It was not mentioned in sonography reports. By knowing the gender of the offspring, according to the hospital birth-records, there was a possibility of (biased) gender differences in foetal parameters and maternal diet analysis.

All participants in the study were drawn from among affluent women who were being referred to the obstetric department of hospitals for monthly check-up. This group of pregnant women was from better socioeducational level and paying more attention to their situation during entire course of pregnancy. Affluent mothers covered all the criteria of sample selection. To participate in the study, women had to meet the following inclusion criteria: (i) at least three sonography reports since second trimester to third trimester; (ii) ultrasound measurements of HC, BPD, AC, and FL; and (iii) singleton pregnancy. …

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