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'Loss of control' eating affects a third of women during pregnancy — study

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

NEW research has found that more than a third of women report feeling out of control over the amount they eat during pregnancy, which could lead to future weight problems for their children.

Led by University College London (UCL), UK, along with researchers from the University of Geneva, Switzerland; Brown University School of Public Health, USA; and Umm Al-Qura University, Saudi Arabia, the team analysed data taken from 11,132 women who participated in 'Children of the 90s', a study carried out by the University of Bristol which has followed thousands of children since their birth in the early 1990s.

The women completed a 'Food Frequency Questionnaire' at 32 weeks, with pregnancy weight gain and the birth weight of children also recorded.

The weight and height of 5,515 children were also measured at 151/2 years.

The results showed that loss of control eating was common, with 582 women self-reporting frequent loss of control eating and 3,466 women reporting experiencing it occasionally.

Loss of control eating is defined as feeling out of control while eating, no matter how much food has been consumed, and is a characteristic feature of binge eating.

The team also found that 5.2 per cent of women who reported frequent loss of control eating gained, on average, 3.5kg more in pregnancy than women who didn't lose control.

Women who experienced any loss of control eating were also more likely to try dieting during pregnancy, were more dissatisfied with their shape, consumed more calorie-dense snacks such as chocolate and cakes, ate more calories overall, and had lower intakes of Vitamin A, C and B6.

Those who frequently lost control over eating also had less Vitamin B1 and folic acid.

Lost of control eating also had an effect on children, with women who experienced any loss of control over eating giving birth to heavier babies. Those who experienced frequent loss of control also had children who had two-fold increased odds of being obese at age 15.

“This is the first study to investigate loss of control eating during pregnancy and its effects on pregnancy, child birth weight and long-term weight. We found that loss of control eating is common and despite having serious implications for mothers and children, it has received very little attention,” said one of the study's authors Dr Nadia Micali.

“Gestational weight gain not only puts children at a greater risk of being obese, but is a predictor of later obesity in mothers. Our findings further the understanding of risk factors for obesity and highlight an urgent need for better identification and support for mothers who experience loss of control eating and understanding risk mechanisms.”

The results can be found published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.