Early Pregnancy Cravings, Dietary Intake, and Development of Abnormal Glucose Tolerance



      Little is known about the relationships between pregnancy cravings, maternal diet, and development of abnormal glucose tolerance.


      We examined relationships of pregnancy cravings with dietary intake and risk of developing isolated hyperglycemia (IH), impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), or gestational diabetes (GDM) later in pregnancy.


      Among 2,022 mothers in Project Viva, a prospective birth cohort recruited from medical practices in eastern Massachusetts between 1999 and 2002, we assessed type of pregnancy craving based on self-report at mean gestation of 10.9 weeks.

      Main outcome measures

      The outcomes were cross-sectional dietary intake from a food frequency questionnaire and incident IH, IGT, or GDM determined by glucose tolerance screening at 26 to 28 weeks.

      Statistical analyses performed

      We used linear regression to analyze the cross-sectional relationships between pregnancy cravings and dietary intake and multinomial logistic regression to analyze the prospective relationships among pregnancy cravings and development of IH, IGT, or GDM.


      During the first trimester, 443 (22%) women craved sweets, 225 (11%) craved salty foods, 261 (13%) craved savory foods, and 100 (4.9%) craved starchy foods. Sweet cravings were associated with increased intake of sucrose (1.9 g/day; 95% CI 0.1 to 3.7), total fat (1.5 g/day; 95% CI 0.1 to 2.9), and saturated fat (0.8 g/day; 95% CI 0.2 to 1.4); salty cravings were associated with increased fiber (0.7 servings/day; 95% CI –0.1 to 1.6); savory cravings were associated with increased n-3 fatty acids (0.10 g/day; 95% CI 0.02 to 0.17); and starchy cravings were associated with increased carbohydrates (8.0 g/day; 95% CI 0.3 to 15.7) and decreased total fat (–2.6 g/day; 95% CI –5.2 to –0.1). Salty cravings were associated with lower risk of GDM (adjusted odds ratio 0.34, 95% CI 0.12-0.97).


      New cravings in the first trimester of pregnancy were associated with dietary intake. Craving salty foods may predict reduced risk of developing GDM, whereas craving sweet food does not appear to alter one’s risk.


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      L. V. Farland is a doctoral candidate, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.


      S. L. Rifas-Shiman is a senior research associate, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA.


      M. W. Gillman is a professor and director of the Obesity Prevention Program, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA.