leptin

A study in Brazil investigated the relationship between dietary patterns, and the appetite-regulating hormones adiponectin and leptin levels during pregnancy.

Obesity is a global epidemic that affects many different population groups, including pregnant women. Obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy have consequences for both the mother and the unborn child. They are linked to increased complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure in pregnancy, overweight babies, premature birth and the need for caesarian delivery. Higher adherence to a “Western” diet, which is rich in refined foods, sugar, saturated fats and low in fibre, is associated with obesity. However, studies looking at “Western” dietary patterns and excessive weight gain in pregnancy have produced conflicting results.

Appetite-Regulating Hormones Change During Pregnancy

There are many physiological adaptations in women’s bodies during pregnancy. These include changes in circulating levels of the appetite-regulating hormones adiponectin and leptin. Blood levels of these hormones are markers for adiposity or “fatness”, and affected by “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” dietary patterns.  Previous studies suggest that “healthy” dietary patterns are associated with higher levels adiponectin, whereas “unhealthy” dietary patterns are associated with higher levels of leptin. There is limited research on how these hormones are affected by dietary patterns in pregnancy. Researchers in Brazil looked at the relationship between dietary patterns and adiponectin and leptin levels in pregnant women. They recently published their findings in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The study participants were recruited from a public antenatal clinic in Rio di Janeiro, Brazil between November 2009 and October 2011. A total of 173 pregnant women were included in the analysis. The researchers assessed the women in early, middle and late pregnancy and one month after giving birth. They measured body weight at each visit and blood samples were taken to measure adiponectin and leptin levels. They also assessed dietary patterns by a food frequency questionnaire which the subjects completed at their visit in late pregnancy.

Western vs. Brazilian Diet During Pregnancy

Overall, 40% of the women were overweight or obese before pregnancy. During pregnancy, the average daily calorie intake was just over 2,400 kcal, and the average weight gain was almost 12 kg. Excessive weight gain occurred in around 35% of the women, and around 56% were overweight or obese one month after giving birth.

An analysis of the food questionnaires identified two dietary patterns. The first, labelled “common Brazilian”, included higher intakes of beans and rice, and lower intakes of fast food, sugary food, and processed meats. The second labelled “Western”, included higher intakes of fast food and processed meat, and lower intakes of noodles, pasta, and root vegetables. Further statistical analysis showed that women with higher adherence to the “common Brazilian” diet had higher levels of adiponectin, whereas those with higher adherence to the “Western” diet had lower levels of adiponectin and higher levels of leptin.

“Common Brazilian Diet” Has Beneficial Effects On Appetite-Regulating Hormones

The researchers concluded that the “common Brazilian” diet is a healthy dietary pattern which appears to have beneficial effects on blood levels of the appetite-regulating hormones adiponectin and leptin. Since there is limited research in this area, they suggest that further studies are needed in different countries to identify other healthy dietary patterns for pregnant women.

Written by Julie McShane, Medical Writer

Reference: Alves-Santos NH, Cocate PG, Eshriqui I, et al. Dietary patterns and their association with adiponectin and leptin concentrations throughout pregnancy: a prospective cohort. Br J of Nutrition. DOI 10.1017/S0007114517003580.

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