• supplement;
  • pregnancy;
  • mid triceps skinfold thickness;
  • birth weight

Four-hundred and twenty-three pregnant women were admitted to this study which was designed to see whether birth weight could be increased by giving nutritional supplements to pregnant women who are nutritionally at risk, as proposed by Viegas et al in 1982. Selection was made by measuring change in the mean triceps skinfold thickness (MTST) between 18 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Seventy-eight European and 80 Asian women failed to increase their MTST in mid trimester; half the women in each racial group were supplemented with a milk-based product yielding 407 kcal and 14.6 g protein daily from the 28th week of pregnancy until delivery.

Supplementation did not increase the mean birth weight; the babies of the supplemented women weighed 3.10 + 0.37 (mean ±2 s.d.) kg compared with the babies of comparable unsupplemented women which weighed 3.19 ±0.40 kg (corrected for maternal height and weight, parity, gestation at delivery and infants sex). Comparison of the corrected birth weight of the babies of unsupplemented women with MTST increase of ±6.2 mm between 18 and 28 weeks gestation and those with an MTST increase ±0.2 mm in the same 10 weeks showed no significant difference whether all races were analysed together or Europeans and Asians were analysed separately. Triceps skinfold thickness change therefore did not select women who were nutritionally at risk.