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The impact of living in a ‘food desert’ on metabolic health during pregnancy

Metabolic health during pregnancy is essential for both the mother and child; however, several factors, including socioeconomic status (SES) and access to healthy food, can disrupt a woman’s metabolic health during pregnancy. A new paper in Scientific Reports explores the roles of these factors during pregnancy.

Study: The association between food desert severity, socioeconomic status, and metabolic state during pregnancy in a prospective longitudinal cohort. Image Credit: Kwangmoozaa / Shutterstock.com Study: The association between food desert severity, socioeconomic status, and metabolic state during pregnancy in a prospective longitudinal cohort. Image Credit: Kwangmoozaa / Shutterstock.com

Introduction

Metabolic dysregulation during pregnancy is associated with several maternal and fetal complications. Fetal problems may include preterm birth, stillbirth, neonatal death, heavy babies, low birth weight, and macrosomia, as well as obesity, metabolic disorders, and an increased risk of aberrant neurodevelopment later in life.

For the mother, metabolic dysregulation during pregnancy may predispose them to long-term medical complications, such as cardiometabolic disorders, renal disease, and urological disease.

The health effects of living in a ‘food desert’

To promote a healthy metabolism during pregnancy, the woman should be able to access and afford healthy food. A ‘food desert’ refers to an area of low-income families with little access to healthy foods.

People living in food deserts are at an increased risk of poor-quality diets, obesity, and nutrient deficiencies, as well as having a low SES. A lower SES increases a pregnant woman’s risk of metabolic complications, including gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), excessive weight gain, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.

Living in a food desert increases the risk of medical and metabolic complications during pregnancy. For example, one earlier study reported an increased risk of GDM in women living in neighborhoods with fewer grocery stores.

This may be due to both living in a food desert as well as increased consumption of pro-inflammatory food, both of which are associated with poor metabolic health in non-pregnant people. This population is also more

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