Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – Nutrition in pregnancy

Dietary intakes of women during pregnancy in low- and middle-income countries

Sun Eun Leea1, Sameera A Talegawkara1, Mario Merialdia2 and Laura E Caulfielda1 c1

a1 Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

a2 Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland


Objective To provide a better understanding of dietary intakes of pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries.

Design Systematic review was performed to identify relevant studies which reported nutrient intakes or food consumption of pregnant women in developing countries. Macronutrient and micronutrient intakes were compared by region and the FAO/WHO Estimated Average Requirements. Food consumption was summarized by region.

Setting Developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean and Central/South America.

Subjects Pregnant women in the second or third trimester of their pregnancies.

Results From a total of 1499 retrieved articles, sixty-two relevant studies were analysed. The ranges of mean/median intakes of energy, fat, protein and carbohydrate were relatively higher in women residing in the Caribbean and Central/South America than in Africa and Asia. Percentages of energy from carbohydrate and fat varied inversely across studies in all regions, whereas percentage of energy from protein was relatively stable. Among selected micronutrients, folate and Fe intakes were most frequently below the Estimated Average Requirements, followed by Ca and Zn. Usual dietary patterns were heavily cereal based across regions.

Conclusions Imbalanced macronutrients, inadequate micronutrient intakes and predominantly plant-based diets were common features of the diet of pregnant women in developing countries. Cohesive public health efforts involving improving access to nutrient-rich local foods, micronutrient supplementation and fortification are needed to improve the nutrition of pregnant women in developing countries.

(Received January 30 2012)

(Revised July 03 2012)

(Accepted August 24 2012)

(Online publication October 09 2012)


  • Pregnant women;
  • Nutrient intakes;
  • Food consumption;
  • Developing countries


c1 Corresponding author: Email