Maternal Lipids Are as Important as Glucose for Fetal Growth: Findings from the Pune Maternal Nutrition Study

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To study the relationship between maternal circulating fuels and neonatal size and compare the relative effects of glucose and lipids.


The Pune Maternal Nutrition Study (1993–1996) investigated the influence of maternal nutrition on fetal growth. We measured maternal body size and glucose and lipid concentrations during pregnancy and examined their relationship with birth size in full-term babies using correlation and regression techniques.


The mothers (n = 631) were young (mean age 21 years), short (mean height 151.9 cm), and thin (BMI 18.0 kg/m2) but were relatively more adipose (body fat 21.1%). Their diet was mostly vegetarian. Between 18 and 28 weeks’ gestation, fasting glucose concentrations remained stable, whereas total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations increased and HDL-cholesterol concentrations decreased. The mean birth weight of the offspring was 2666 g. Total cholesterol and triglycerides at both 18 and 28 weeks and plasma glucose only at 28 weeks were associated directly with birth size. One SD higher maternal fasting glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride concentrations at 28 weeks were associated with 37, 54, and 36 g higher birth weights, respectively (P < 0.05 for all). HDL-cholesterol concentrations were unrelated to newborn measurements. The results were similar if preterm deliveries also were included in the analysis (total n = 700).


Our results suggest an influence of maternal lipids on neonatal size in addition to the well-established effect of glucose. Further research should be directed at defining the clinical relevance of these findings.

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