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The importance of good nutrition during pregnancy: a comparison between the UK and Brazil

02 October 2022
Volume 30 · Issue 10


The UK and Brazil both have sizable populations with significant demands on antenatal and maternity care. However, access to different healthcare professionals and knowledge regarding the importance of maternal nutrition vary widely between the two countries. This article compares the different approaches used in maternal nutrition between the UK and Brazil, seeking to share best practice and improve antenatal care.

Good nutrition during the first 1000 days of life (from the point of conception to a child's second birthday) has an important influence on an individual's future. It is a critical period for growth and development, and any harm caused by inadequate nutrition can influence health for an individual's whole lifetime (United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 2016). Therefore, good nutrition during pregnancy is of utmost importance in achieving optimal health for individuals and populations globally. During the first 1000 days of life, nutrition quality can influence the prevalence of non-communicable disease later in life. Barker's (1995) hypothesis stated that low birth weight (reflecting poor nutrition in utero) was associated with an increased lifetime incidence of cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, suggesting that the nutrient environment of early life could permanently alter gene expression.

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2016) acknowledges that good nutrition during early life is the most important factor in managing the burden of disease and health inequalities worldwide. They emphasise that poor nutrition during early life, including pregnancy, can have detrimental short-and long-term effects. As non-communicable diseases are now the leading cause of premature death and disability worldwide, imposing a significant burden on national health services, finding health interventions that reduce such burdens is urgently required (WHO, 2016).

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