European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 341–347

Dietary folate intake during pregnancy and birth weight in Japan


    • Human Health Science, Graduate school of MedicineKyoto University
  • Hideoki Fukuoka
    • Comprehensive Research OrganizationWaseda University
  • Takashi Sugiyama
    • Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyMie University Graduate School of Medicine
  • Yasushi Nagai
    • Nagai Clinic
  • Kayoko Ogasawara
    • Nagai Clinic
  • Nobuo Yoshiike
    • National Institute of Health and Nutrition

DOI: 10.1007/s00394-008-0733-8

Cite this article as:
Watanabe, H., Fukuoka, H., Sugiyama, T. et al. Eur J Nutr (2008) 47: 341. doi:10.1007/s00394-008-0733-8



Inadequate folate status has been associated with many negative reproductive outcomes, such as neural tube defects (NTD), low birth weight and placental abruption.

Aim of the study

The objectives of this study were to evaluate the levels of dietary folate intake during pregnancy in Japanese women and the subsequent birth weight of their babies.


A longitudinal prospective study was conducted with 197 women with a singleton pregnancy in 2005. Dietary folate was investigated 3 times: in the first trimester at 12 weeks, in the second trimester at 20 weeks and in third trimester at 32 weeks using a diet history questionnaire (DHQ). Non fasting blood samples were collected from the women for measurement of homocysteine, hemoglobin, ferritin, unbound iron-binding capacity (UIBC) and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC).


Energy intake increased as pregnancy advanced, but not significantly. The daily intake of folate increased from 248.5 ± 113.1 µg/d in the first trimester to 275.4 ± 100.2 µg/d in the third trimester (P = 0.04). This was well below the recommended level of 440 µg/d and only 10% of mothers were above the levels. In the third trimester, plasma homocysteine concentration was significantly higher in the low folate group of less than 250 µg/d (P = 0.02), but not the first and second trimesters. Dietary folate intake and plasma homocysteine concentrations were not likely to be predictors of birth weight in our subjects.


Our study shows that Japanese women’s energy and folate intakes do not meet their energy needs during pregnancy and are at an extremely low recommended dietary allowance level throughout pregnancy.


dietary folate intakepregnancymaternal nutritionbirth weight

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© Spinger 2008