British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Maternal dietary glycaemic load during pregnancy and gestational weight gain, birth weight and postpartum weight retention: a study within the Danish National Birth Cohort

Vibeke K. Knudsena1a2 c1, Berit L. Heitmanna3, Thorhallur I. Halldorssona1a4, Thorkild I. A. Sørensena3 and Sjurdur F. Olsena1a5

a1 Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Centre for Fetal Programming, DK-Copenhagen S, Denmark

a2 Division of Nutrition, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Mørkhøj Bygade 19, DK-2860, Søborg, Denmark

a3 Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark

a4 Unit for Nutrition Research, Faculty of Food Science and Nutrition, School of Health Sciences, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland

a5 Harvard School of Public Health, Centre for Fetal Programming, Boston, MA, USA


Dietary glycaemic index and glycaemic load (GL) have been related to obesity and other health outcomes. The objective of the present study was to examine the associations between maternal dietary GL and gestational weight gain, birth weight, the risk of giving birth to a child large-for-gestational age (LGA) or small-for-gestational age and postpartum weight retention (PPWR). Data were derived from the Danish National Birth Cohort (1996–2002), including data on gestational and lifestyle factors in pregnancy and 18 months postpartum. Dietary data were collected using a validated FFQ. Information on birth outcome was obtained through registers. A total of 47 003 women were included. The associations between the GL and birth outcome, gestational weight gain, assessed between weeks 12 and 30 of gestation, and PPWR were analysed by linear and logistic regression. Birth weight increased by 36 g from the lowest to highest GL quintile (95 % CI 19, 53 g), and an increased risk of LGA of 14 % was detected in the highest GL quintile compared with the lowest GL quintile. Among normal-weight and overweight women, higher gestational weight gain rates were detected in the highest GL quintile (26 g/week (95 % CI 19, 34) and 30 g/week (95 % CI 13, 46), respectively). The association between the GL and PPWR was most pronounced among pre-pregnant obese women, with an increase in weight retention of 1·3 (95 % CI 0·2, 2·8) kg from the lowest to highest GL quintile. The GL may play a role for excessive gestational weight gain and PPWR, which may be more pronounced among overweight and obese women.

(Received October 17 2011)

(Revised July 06 2012)

(Accepted July 06 2012)

(Online publication August 21 2012)

Key Words:

  • Maternal dietary glycaemic load;
  • Birth weight;
  • Postpartum weight retention


c1 Corresponding author: V. K. Knudsen, email


  Abbreviations: DNBC, Danish National Birth Cohort; GI, glycaemic index; GL, glycaemic load; LGA, large-for-gestational age; PPWR, postpartum weight retention; SGA, small-for-gestational age