The impact of dietary diversification on the nutritional status of pregnant women in the Vaal Region

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Kesa, Hema
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The main objective of this study was to develop a cost-effective, culturally acceptable, nutrient-dense food multimix (FMM) based on local food staples for pregnant women in the Vaal region. The impact of the consumption of the multimix on the nutritional status of the women, dietary diversity and outcomes of pregnancy was assessed in an intervention study by measuring the same variables as for a pilot study where the nutritional status of pregnant women was determined. Compliance was measured through monitoring of the FMM consumption and sensory evaluation tests. Quantitative food frequency questionnaires (QFFQs) and 24-hour recall questionnaires were completed in interviews. Anthropometric and biochemical measurements were recorded. The pilot study indicated that the mean total iron intake was 9,74 mg/day, below the estimated average requirement (EAR) of 22 mg/day for pregnant women. Therefore, 41,7 per cent of the women were found to be iron deficient and 50 per cent suffered from iron deficiency anaemia. Food consumed supplied little iron. Eighty per cent of the women were overweight before falling pregnant. Based on the pilot study, the FMM was developed and subjected to the following processes: chemical analysis, shelf life tests, recipe development and sensory evaluation. The product was then implemented in an intervention programme. A control group of pregnant women received soup powder. The respondents were relatively healthy and did not suffer from any chronic diseases. According to the nutrient intakes measured by the QFFQ, indicating usual dietary intakes, the iron intake of 87,5 per cent of the experimental group and 94 per cent of the control group fell below the EAR before intervention. After the intervention it improved in that the iron intake of 35,2 per cent of the experimental group and 33,3 per cent of the control group fell below the EAR. The top 10 items consumed by the experimental group during pre- and post-intervention were mainly rich in carbohydrates. Food containing iron absorption inhibitors such as tannin in tea and phytates in maize meal and bread were among the top 10 foods listed. The highest number of individual food items consumed by an individual in seven days was 39 before the intervention and 52 after the intervention, among the experimental group. The individual food variety improved after the intervention. The reason for this could be the inclusion of the FMM in their diets. The majority of the respondents consumed eight to nine of the nutritious food groups before and after the intervention. The mean food variety score (FVS) for the control group was 38,9 (±10,5) before the intervention, which decreased to 35,8 (±8,39) after the intervention. No improvement in FVS was observed after the intervention in the control group and the FVS indicated medium dietary diversity (30-60 food items). The post-intervention results show that there was an improvement in most of the iron variables. The experimental group showed statistically significant differences between pre- and post-intervention measurements in transferrin and haematocrit levels and the control group in haematocrit levels. All the babies born to the mothers of both the experimental and control groups were healthy with measurements in the normal range. The reason for this could be that the inclusion of the FMM and soup powder in the diets of the experimental and control group, respectively, made the women more aware of the importance of pregnancy monitoring. Furthermore, the attention given to the women by the clinic sisters and the researchers could have contributed to all the improvements mentioned.
D. Tech. (Food Service Management, Dept. of Hospitality, Tourism and PR management), Vaal University of Technology
Staple foods, Pregnant women, Nutritional supplements, Nutrient content