An in-depth investigation into the associations between maternal dietary intake during pregnancy and obesity and allergy outcomes in children

  • Mariam Vahdaninia

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Maternal diet in pregnancy and early infant diet have been implicated in the aetiology of obesity and allergy. This thesis aims to investigate the effect of maternal nutrition during pregnancy and infant feeding practices in early life on the development of obesity and allergic outcomes in children.
This research was conducted as two separate complementary studies. The first synthesised the best available evidence from randomised clinical trials, by conducting two systematic reviews, of the effectiveness of maternal nutritional/dietary interventions during pregnancy to prevent obesity and allergic outcomes in offspring. The second collected data prospectively from the Portsmouth Birth Cohort registry on maternal diet during pregnancy as well as feeding practices of babies at 2 and 6 months of age, and assessed how these nutritional behaviours affected the development of weight and allergic outcomes in babies by 6 months of age.
The systematic reviews provided evidence that prenatal supplementation of probiotics, fatty acids and vitamins could protect against childhood eczema, sensitisation and wheeze respectively. However, nutritional/dietary interventions did not prevent obesity in children. The second study showed three main findings: 1) higher maternal consumption of sugar during pregnancy was associated with lower weight Z-score both at birth and at 6 months of age; 2) partially breast-fed babies compared to dominantly breast-fed and formula-fed babies at 2 months had lower weight Z-score at 2 and 6 months of age; 3) the introduction of wheat at 3-6 months compared to later introduction was associated with fewer allergic symptoms at 6 months of age.
The novel findings of this research have implications for practice. Notably, Vitamin D intake in pregnancy was found to prevent wheeze in children; however, longer-term follow-ups of these studies is necessary to determine whether Vitamin D could also protect against childhood asthma. Findings of the cohort highlight the importance of healthy diet in pregnant women and early feeding practices in babies for the development of obesity and allergies in babies. Longer-term follow-up of these babies in a larger sample is needed to validate these results.
Date of AwardNov 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorTara Dean (Supervisor), Heather MacKenzie (Supervisor) & Suzannah Helps (Supervisor)

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