There's No Such Thing As 'Eating For Two'

24/09/2015 5:43 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Pregnant African American woman eating cake

You guys, the baby does not need an extra piece of cake.

New UNSW research has challenged the adage of needing to "eat for two" during pregnancy -- showing expectant mothers boost fat stores and extra lean mass, while increasing their energy output all without needing to consume significantly more food. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

The study, led by UNSW Professor Tony O’Sullivan, tracked the weight gain, energy spent (metabolised) and food intake of 26 women throughout their pregnancy at Sydney’s St George Hospital, using sophisticated mobile sensor technology.

On average, the women gained 10.8 kilograms during pregnancy, seven kilograms of which was additional fat mass -- largely put on between the first and second trimester.

This laying down of fat stores occurred despite an almost 8 percent surge in daily energy demand and no significant change in food intake, suggesting dramatic metabolic changes occur that allow expectant mothers to conserve more energy as fat and to extract more calories from food. It's a shame that energy doesn't translate to feeling fabulous.

Professor O’Sullivan said the findings -- which support earlier studies involving smaller cohort -- contrasted with traditional advice that pregnant women should cumulatively increase their intake of calories.

“These findings suggest the need for reassessment of nutritional advice given to pregnant women, as current advice to increase energy intake may be increasing the risk of excessive gestational weight gain,” said O'Sullivan.

Fat stores are essential in pregnancy to buffer fluctuations in energy supply and demand driven by the growing foetus, as well as the significant energy demands of breastfeeding, particularly in the first six weeks following birth.

However, excessive weight gain in pregnancy is associated with complications including gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, as well as an increase in heart disease in offspring.

Good luck telling the news to your cravings.

The Study published in the latest edition of The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

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