Norwegian study characterizes organic food consumption by pregnant women

Methodological challenges identified

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Pregnant women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) were surveyed about their food consumption patterns and other lifestyle choices. The study was led by Hanne Torjusen of the Division of Environmental Medicine in the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the National Institute for Consumer Research. Results were based on the responses of 63'808 women who answered two questionnaires in the years 2002-2007 during their pregnancies. The first was a general health questionnaire at the beginning of the second trimester followed by a food frequency questionnaire completed before the third trimester. Women reported the frequency of organic food use in six main food groups: milk/dairy, bread/cereal, eggs, vegetables, fruit and meat. Frequent consumption of organic food was reported by 9.1% of the respondents.

Women who ate organic food tended to eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products than women in the overall population. In general, the pregnant women who included organic foods in their diets were more likely to follow dietary guidelines established for pregnant women. However, the cause and effect are not clear. Do women who eat organic foods tend to have more healthy diets, or are women who are more conscientious about their diets more likely to eat organic food? The correlation has a methodological effect known as 'collinearity' that makes it more difficult to determine how much organic food helps improve the health of women and children, and how much is related to a healthier diet in general.

The authors conclude that pregnant women who eat organic food have lifestyles that are healthier and more sustainable in general. As their research proceeds, identifying the role played by organic food will be a methodological challenge.

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Citations

  • Torjusen, H, Lieblein, G., T. Naes, M. Haugen, H.M. Meltzer and A.L. Brantsaeter. 2012. Food patterns and dietary quality associated with organic food consumption during pregnancy; data from a large cohort of pregnant women in Norway. BMC Public Health 12: 612.  doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-612. Available at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/12/612/abstract.

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