Mediation by Executive Functions in the Associations Between Perceived Stress, Prenatal Distress, Emotional Control, and Dietary Intake in Overweight or Obese Pregnant Women

Author(s): Mei-Wei Chang, Alai Tan, Jonathan Schaffir, Duane T. Wegener, Brett Worly, Katherine Strafford, Cassandra Sampsell, Kaleena Kemper, Loriana Soma2, Maggie Rosen, Amanthi Ranatunga, Michelle Challa

Background: The study explored potential mediation by executive functions (behavioral regulation index [BRI] and metacognition index [MI]) in association between perceived stress, prenatal distress, emotional control, and dietary intake (total calorie, total fat, added sugar, fruits, and vegetables).

Methods: 70 overweight or obese pregnant women completed validated online surveys and two 24-hour dietary recalls. Path analyses were performed.

Results: Increased perceived stress was associated with increased BRI both directly (p < 0.001) and indirectly through increased MI (perceived stress to MI: p < 0.001, MI to BRI: p < 0.001). Subsequently, increased BRI was associated with increased total fat intake (p = 0.01). Two-stage mediation was found in the association of prenatal distress with total fat intake. Increased prenatal distress was associated with increased MI (p < 0.001). Higher MI was associated with higher BRI (p < 0.001), and higher BRI was associated with increased total fat intake (p = 0.01).

Conclusions: Future intervention studies for overweight or obese pregnant women might focus on stress management to alleviate perceived stress and prenatal distress or on strategies to boost executive functions, each of which might ultimately help to reduce total fat intake.

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