An Australian study has found women who are pregnant or trying to conceive are not getting adequate nutrition because they’re avoiding potentially “risky” foods.
The University of Newcastle study has led to questions about whether the warnings about which foods to consume and avoid during pregnancy need a review.
Published in Public Health Nutrition, the study is the first to look at nutrient intakes of pregnant women who abided by warnings about Listeria and avoided foods including soft cheeses, pre-packaged salads and cold meats.
Listeria is linked to still birth and premature birth and those who eat foods potentially containing the bug face a 20 per cent higher chance of miscarriage.
But, the problem is that women who do consume these foods and therefore run the risk of pregnancy complications, also have the highest intake of nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
“This is quite a dilemma,” lead researcher, Professor Clare Collins said.
“It is important for pregnant women to achieve a balance between an adequate intake of nutrients such as folate, iron, zinc and protein, and reducing their risk of Listeriosis.
“In our study, moderate or low consumption of foods at risk of contamination by Listeria was not associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, suggesting that a balanced consumption of potentially risky foods with foods containing essential nutrients may be the best approach.”
She said the findings from the study suggest a more detailed set of recommendations might be needed, as the current Australian Government may be too simplistic in its warnings about Listeria and food avoidance.
“The recommendations need to include the list of ‘risky’ foods, but should focus on giving women low-risk alternatives to help them meet their optimal nutrient targets,” Collins explained.
“Women need to know how to balance opposing risks.
“We want them to feel confident about the foods they choose, so they minimise the risk of Listeriosis while giving their baby the best possible start to life.”
Listeriosis is relatively rare in Australia today, as regulations around food preparation and storage are improved.
In 2008, there were about 65 cases of Listeriosis reported in Australia.
Of those, 12 of occurred during pregnancy and one case was fatal.
“Our findings suggest that a moderate consumption of potentially risky foods may be the optimal approach,” the authors concluded.