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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Food patterns and dietary quality associated with organic food consumption during pregnancy; data from a large cohort of pregnant women in Norway

Hanne Torjusen12*, Geir Lieblein3, Tormod Næs4, Margaretha Haugen1, Helle Margrete Meltzer1 and Anne Lise Brantsæter1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Environmental Medicine, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

2 National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Oslo, Norway

3 Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway

4 Nofima, Osloveien 1, 1430, Ås, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:612  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-612

Published: 6 August 2012



Little is known about the consumption of organic food during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to describe dietary characteristics associated with frequent consumption of organic food among pregnant women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa).


The present study includes 63 808 women who during the years 2002–2007 answered two questionnaires, a general health questionnaire at gestational weeks 15 and a food frequency questionnaire at weeks 17-22. The exploration of food patterns by Principal component analyses (PCA) was followed by ANOVA analyses investigating how these food patterns as well as intake of selected food groups were associated with consumption of organic food.


The first principal component (PC1) identified by PCA, accounting for 12% of the variation, was interpreted as a ‘health and sustainability component’, with high positive loadings for vegetables, fruit and berries, cooking oil, whole grain bread and cereal products and negative loadings for meat, including processed meat, white bread, and cakes and sweets. Frequent consumption of organic food, which was reported among 9.1% of participants (n = 5786), was associated with increased scores on the ‘health and sustainability component’ (p < 0.001). The increase in score represented approximately 1/10 of the total variation and was independent of sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics. Participants with frequent consumption of organic food had a diet with higher density of fiber and most nutrients such as folate, beta-carotene and vitamin C, and lower density of sodium compared to participants with no or low organic consumption.


The present study showed that pregnant Norwegian women reporting frequent consumption of organically produced food had dietary pattern and quality more in line with public advice for healthy and sustainable diets. A methodological implication is that the overall diet needs to be included in future studies of potential health outcomes related to consumption of organic food during pregnancy.