Clara Rodriguez defends her doctoral thesis


Last July 8, at Miguel Hernandez University (UMH), took place the defense of the PhD Thesis Diet quality during pregnancy and its relationship to fetal growth by Clara Liliana Rodríguez Bernal (researcher of the Environment and Health Area, FISABIO), co-directed by professors Marisa Rebagliato, University Jaume I of Castellón, Jesus Vioque, UMH, and Ferran Ballester, University of Valencia and FISABIO.

The thesis was awarded Excellent Cum Laude, and presented under the format of International PhD which requires, among other, a stay at an overseas prestigious research institution by the doctoral student, publishing articles in journals of high impact and quality, and presenting at least the summary and conclusions in one of the official languages of the EU other than Spanish. The thesis was based on several articles published in journals such as Public Health Nutrition and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, as well as a book chapter.

The Examining Committee was composed by Professor Isabelle Romieu, Director of the Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of WHO in Lyon; Dr. Dora Romaguera, researcher at Imperial College in London; Dr Alberto Torres, professor at the University of Murcia; Dr. Carmen Barona, Chief of the Health Plan at Directorate General of Public Health -Generalitat Valenciana and Dr. Manuela Garcia de la Hera, UMH.

Among the most important conclusions of the thesis is worth mentioning the high percentage (> 50{3effe4377b6f02be2524d084f7d03914ac32a2b62c0a056ca3444e58c1f10d0b}) of pregnant women who did not meet the recommendations for consumption of food that is important for this life-stage, such as cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables, or nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, while exceeded the recommended consumption of total fat. Most women (68-99{3effe4377b6f02be2524d084f7d03914ac32a2b62c0a056ca3444e58c1f10d0b}), had an inadequate intake from diet for nutrients such as folate, vitamin D and iron for which there are specific recommendations and whose inadequacy was only partially alleviated by supplementation. Diet was more inadequate among younger and less educated women, and regarding country of origin, among Spain-born women.

The results of the study also making part of this thesis, reviewing the evidence on the relationship between maternal iron status or supplementation with this nutrient during pregnancy and foetal growth, suggest that iron deficiency in early pregnancy has an adverse effect on foetal growth; the role of supplementation needs to be evaluated by studies of good quality to obtain reliable conclusions.

Regarding the quality of the diet, as measured by standardized indicators (AHEI), younger women, those with a lower level of education and smokers showed poorer quality of diet. Finally, poorer diet quality during the first trimester of pregnancy was significantly associated with a decrease in anthropometric measures of the newborn adjusted for gestational age, as well as a higher risk of foetal growth restriction, especially for weight.