A new study by Nestlé scientists working with the international EpiGen Consortium has found whole grain intake among pregnant women in Singapore to be below international guidelines, potentially increasing their risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition (pdf, 350Kb), the research is the first comprehensive analysis of whole grain intake in an Asian population, among pregnant women.
An analysis of dietary intake data from just under 1,000 women, the study showed that only 30% reported eating any whole grains at all. Even among these women, daily intake averaged just 23.6g, which is below the amount recommended by the Singapore Health Promotion Board.
Previous studies have suggested that a diet rich in whole grains can improve glucose metabolism, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. In Singapore, rates of this condition, which can increase the chances of caesarean birth, are among the highest in the world.
A whole grain-rich diet is also thought to help reduce the likelihood of both mother and child developing type 2 diabetes in later life.
"Understanding and improving the nutrition of mothers-to-be and infants during the first 1,000 days of life is a priority for Nestlé Research," said Thomas Beck, Head of the Nestlé Research Center.
"Our partnership with EpiGen is helping to further our understanding of how the diet and lifestyles of pregnant women can influence not only their own health, but also the future growth and development of their children."
Nestlé began collaborating with EpiGen, a consortium of epigenetics researchers based in New Zealand, Singapore and the UK in 2011. Last year, the company announced it would invest CHF 22 million to extend this by a further six years.
Epigenetics is the study of how environment, including diet, can lead to alterations (with potential health implications) in our own DNA and our children’s.
Nestlé has committed to encouraging whole grain consumption, with targets such as increasing the whole grain content of its breakfast cereals and promoting cooking with whole grain through its international Maggi Cooking Lesson Programme.