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Influence of alternative lifestyles on self-reported body weight and health characteristics in women

Ana Paula Simões-Wüst, Ischa Kummeling, Monique Mommers, Machteld A.S. Huber, Lukas Rist, Lucy P.L. van de Vijver, Pieter C. Dagnelie, Carel Thijs
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckt045 321-327 First published online: 2 May 2013


Background: Alternative lifestyles are often associated with distinct practices with respect to nutrition, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use and usage of complementary medicine. Evidence concerning effects of these lifestyle-related practices on health status is still fragmentary. Objective: To describe maternal health characteristics related to alternative lifestyles, with emphasis on body-weight status, during pregnancy and maternity periods. Methods: We compared self-reported health-related features of mothers with alternative lifestyles and conventional lifestyles during pregnancy and maternity period in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. This cohort comprises two recruitment groups of mother–infant pairs, one with a conventional (no selection based on lifestyle, n = 2333), the other with an alternative lifestyle (selected via organic food shops, anthroposophic clinicians and midwives, anthroposophic under-five clinics, Rudolf Steiner schools and relevant magazines, n = 485). Mothers in the alternative group more frequently chose organic foods, adhered to specific living rules, practised vegetarianism and identified themselves with anthroposophy. Results: Mothers in the alternative group showed lower BMI and lower prevalence of overweight and obesity than the conventional group, before pregnancy as well as 4–5 years after delivery. This difference was partly retained after adjusting for potential confounders. Furthermore, women in the alternative group had a lower prevalence of pregnancy-related hypertension, more often started breastfeeding and gave exclusive and prolonged breastfeeding for a longer period. Finally, they smoked less often, but more often drunk alcohol during pregnancy. Conclusion: The results suggest that an alternative lifestyle is associated with favourable body weight and with several differences in other health features.

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