Kaiser Permanente Research Reveals Depressed Pregnant Women Eating Poorly Putting Themselves and Future Children at Risk

Kaiser Permanente Research Reveals Depressed Pregnant Women Eating Poorly Putting Themselves and Future Children at Risk

A Kaiser Permanente Division of Research study revealed that pregnant women with depression are far more likely to eat poor diets, with higher intake of empty calories, that may have adverse, lasting consequences on a next generation of children.

Published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the study revealed that depressed pregnant women were nearly twice as likely as the pregnant women without depression to have a poor-quality diet.

The Problem

Poor diet quality during pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes and excess weight gain, both risk factors for pregnancy complications. Maternal nutrition can also significantly affect fetal growth and development and the long-term health of the child.

The Study

Known as the “Study of How Pre-pregnancy and Pregnancy Lifestyle Influences the Outcome of Deliver (PEAPOD), the study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente Division of Research investigators between 2011 and 2013. The investigators of this new study used data from PEAPOD to probe for any association between depression and diet quality. They discovered that women with prenatal depression had higher consumption of empty calories, and lower consumption of greens and beans, total fruit and whole fruits.

Hispanic Risks

The investigators at Kaiser also found that Hispanic women were further at risk—showing a greater relationship between prenatal depression and diet. Those with depression were two-and-a-half times more likely to have poor diet quality compared with women without the disorder.

Factor in Nutrition to Head off Expensive Chronic Problems Later

Based on this observational evidence, clinicians should seek nutritional and wellness resources for these patients in coordination with any treatment for depression symptoms.  In fact, the identification of nutritional quality during pregnancy represents an important preventive tool to head off chronic disease later in life reported senior author Monique Hedderson, PhD.

Study Design

Note that there is an association between what one eats and depression—hence poor diet can contribute to low mood. Hence the investigators designed the observational study to identify depression prior to the completion of the dietary survey. However, there is still likely some overlap between the onset of depression and dietary intake reporting.

Study Funding

The study was supported by a career development award to investigator Avalos by the National Institute of Mental Health. Coauthor Yeyi Zhu, PhD, was supported by National Institutes of Health grants. Funding also originated from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

About Kaiser Permanente Research Northern California

The Division is one of the nation’s largest research facilities outside of a government or university setting. Kaiser Permanente Research Northern California is the primary professional home of more than 50 research scientists and 500 staff members who lead studies in epidemiology, health services, and clinical trials. Their studies cover a wide range of clinical topics, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, substance abuse, mental health, maternal and child health, women’s health. Their research addresses broad issues, including the role of genes and the environment in health, the influence of behavior on disease prevention and chronic illness management, drug safety, health care policy, health services delivery, and disparities. They have almost 400 ongoing projects and contribute more than 300 scientific papers to peer-reviewed journals each year.

The Division’s work is funded primarily by federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The Permanente Medical Group and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan’s Community Benefit Program are our major internal sponsors.

Partnerships and collaboration are a hallmark of their work. They provide crucial support to physician researchers from The Permanente Medical Group, and they collaborate with researchers from other regions of Kaiser Permanente, other organizations in the Health Care Systems Research Network, federal and state agencies, and academic institutions across the country. Of particular note are their rich collaborative relationships with academic centers in the Bay Area, including the University of California, San Francisco; Stanford University School of Medicine; and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.

Lead Research/Investigator

Lyndsay Avalos, PhD, MPH, lead author

Monique Hedderson, PhD, research scientists, senior author

Yeyi Zhu, PhD

For additional authors see source below.

Call to Action: Sufficient attention should be made to depression and dietary intake during pregnancy—children deserve the best possible chances in life. Moreover, the researchers identified that additional research should be conducted to better understand the timing of the relationship between diet and depression during pregnancy.