Cravings in pregnancy: Do they impact upon nutritional status?

Nutritional and clinical associations of food cravings in pregnancy

Hill et al., JHND Early View


Cravings in pregnancy are considered to alter dietary intake; however, the nutritional consequences are unknown. The present study aimed to investigate the prevalence of food cravings in pregnancy, and their contribution, as a potentially modifiable determinant of weight gain and the development of obesity in pregnancy.


Healthy pregnant women were participants in the Belfast cohort of the Hyperglycaemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome study (HAPO), a prospective observational study examining maternal glycaemia and pregnancy outcome. Diet was assessed at an average of 29 weeks of gestation using a self-administered validated food frequency questionnaire over the previous 2 weeks that included questions on food cravings experienced at any time during pregnancy. Clinical measurements collected included, height, weight, blood glucose and neonatal outcomes. Mean daily nutrient intakes were analysed with appropriate software.


Food cravings were reported by 39% (n = 635) of women, with sweet foods, fruit and dairy products most frequently consumed. Those who craved foods had a higher mean (SD) energy intake [9721 (3016) kJ] (P = 0.002) even when under-reporters were removed [10131 (2875) kJ] (P = 0.008). However, no differences were found in nutrient or food intake between groups when adjusted for energy. Similarly, no differences were observed between groups and glycaemic control, anthropometric measurements or offspring outcome measures.


Cravings commonly occur in pregnancy and contributed to a small increase in energy intake; however, this did not impact on overall dietary intake, nor was it associated with excessive gestational weight gain, maternal glycaemia or offspring outcome measurements.


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