The purpose of the present study was to evaluate whether micronutrient supplementation improved the nutritional status of women with poor diets during the inter-pregnancy interval. Fifty-five women who had given birth to a low birth weight baby (<2·5 kg), and who planned to have a further pregnancy, were recruited to a prospective randomised study in East London, UK. Of the fifty-five mothers recruited, forty-four (78 %) met fewer than four of sixteen dietary reference values according to the information provided in a 7 d diet diary, and were categorised as having an ‘inadequate’ diet. Half of the mothers in the ‘inadequate’-diet group were randomly assigned to receive a micronutrient and a single cell oil supplement containing docosahexaenoic acid. All participants received dietary advice based on analysis of their diet diaries, and general lifestyle advice on preparing for pregnancy. Mothers had a blood sample taken at 3 and 9 months post-partum to measure their folate, Fe stores and fatty acid status. Mean serum and erythrocyte folate levels increased significantly between 3 and 9 months post-partum in both the adequate-diet group and the supplemented group. At 9 months post-partum, over half of the unsupplemented, inadequate-diet group remained severely deficient in folate (serum folate <230 nmol/l) and had low serum ferritin levels (<15 μg/l). The high prevalence of inadequate diets in this inner-city population and the low motivation of women to participate in a nutrition programme suggests that consideration should be given to the provision of free folate and Fe supplements to all women in this and similar populations, or at least to women who have delivered a low birth weight baby, who plan further pregnancies.
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