Maternal Diet Influences Fetal Growth but Not Fetal Kidney Volume in an Australian Indigenous Pregnancy Cohort.


Lee YQ(1), Lumbers ER(2)(3), Schumacher TL(4)(5)(6), Collins CE(4)(7), Rae KM(8)(9), Pringle KG(2)(3), Gomeroi Gaaynggal Advisory Committee.
Author information:
(1)Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117549, Singapore.
(2)Pregnancy and Reproduction Program, Hunter Medical Research Institute, New Lambton, NSW 2305, Australia.
(3)Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Sciences and School of Biomedical Science and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.
(4)Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.
(5)Department of Rural Health, University of Newcastle, Tamworth, NSW 2340, Australia.
(6)Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviours, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.
(7)School of Health Sciences, College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.
(8)Mater Medical Research Institute, South Brisbane, QLD 4101, Australia.
(9)Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland, Herston, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.


Suboptimal nutrition during pregnancy is recognised as a significant modifiable determinant in the development of chronic disease in offspring in later life. The current study aimed: (i) to assess the dietary intakes of pregnant Indigenous Australian women against national recommendations and (ii) to investigate the associations between maternal nutrition during pregnancy and the growth of the offspring, including kidney development in late gestation in the Gomeroi gaaynggal cohort (n = 103). Maternal dietary intake in the third trimester was assessed using the Australian Eating Survey Food Frequency Questionnaire. Estimated fetal weight (EFW) and kidney size were obtained by ultrasound. Birth weight was retrieved from hospital birth records. Of the five key nutrients for optimal reproductive health (folate, iron, calcium, zinc and fibre), the nutrients with the highest percentage of pregnant women achieving the nutrient reference values (NRVs) were zinc (75.7%) and folate (57.3%), whereas iron was the lowest. Only four people achieved all NRVs (folate, iron, calcium, zinc and fibre) important in pregnancy. Sodium and saturated fat intake exceeded recommended levels and diet quality was low, with a median score of 28 out of 73 points. After adjusting for smoking and pre-pregnancy body mass index, only maternal intake of retinol equivalents and the proportion of energy from nutrient-dense or energy-dense, nutrient-poor (EDNP) foods were associated with fetal growth. EFW decreased by 0.13 g and birth weight decreased by 0.24 g for every µg increase in maternal dietary retinol intake. Interestingly, EFW, but not actual birth weight, was positively associated with percentage energy from nutrient dense foods and negatively associated with percentage energy from EDNP foods. Dietary supplement usage was associated with increased birthweight, most significantly iron and folate supplementation. Current dietary intakes of pregnant Australian women from this cohort do not align with national guidelines. Furthermore, current findings show that maternal retinol intake and diet composition during pregnancy can influence fetal growth, but not fetal kidney growth in late gestation. Strategies that aim to support and optimise nutrient intakes of Indigenous pregnant women are urgently needed. Future studies with long-term follow-up of the children in the current cohort to assess renal damage and blood pressure are imperative.