Poster Topical Area: Global Nutrition
Location: Hall D
Poster Board Number: 565
Objectives:Food beliefs and practices during pregnancy have a considerable impact on the health of the mother and the unborn child. In some societies, food beliefs are deeply rooted in the culture and they often lead to practical rules about specific types of foods to be consumed or avoided during pregnancy. These rules are commonly known as food taboos. The purpose of this review was to explore what is known about food taboos and beliefs during pregnancy.
Methods: A literature search was conducted in PubMed and CINAHL. The search was limited to original articles published in the last ten years in English. Two searches were done in both databases. In the first search, we used the following keywords: "Food taboos" "pregnant women"/ "pregnancy". In the second search, we used "Food beliefs" "pregnant women"/ "pregnancy". A total of 18 articles met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review.
Results: Most participants were pregnant women between the age of 20 and 30. Gravidity varied between one and six with most women expecting their first or second child. For the social-economic status (SES), most participants were from rural areas with low income and education. Reviewed studies were mostly conducted African and Asian countries. We identified more than 50 types of tabooed food during pregnancy. The most common tabooed foods were; different types of meat such as wild animal meat, internal organ meat and fresh meat. Eggs were tabooed in some cultural groups but highly recommended in others. Some types of fruits such as papaya, sugarcane, grapes and different types of vegetables were tabooed in some cultural groups. Although the rationales behind most food taboos were not scientifically jusfiable, some taboos could be linked to a scientific explanation. Food taboos exposed mothers to poor diets in most cases; however, some of the taboos protected pregnant women against unhealthy eating habits.
Conclusions: Food taboos have a considerable impact on maternal nutrition during pregnancy. Previous studies have focused on the negative impact of food taboos. This review identified a few taboos with a potential protective/ positive aspect. More studies are needed to explore this aspect and how it can be used to improve maternal nutrition.
University of Massachusetts Amherst