Introduction Food cravings are common in pregnancy and along with emotional eating and eating in the absence of hunger, they are associated with excessive weight gain and adverse effects on metabolic health including gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Women with GDM also show poorer mental health, which further can contribute to dysregulated eating behaviour. Food cravings can lead to greater activity in brain centres known to be involved in food ‘wanting’ and reward valuation as well as emotional eating. They are also related to gestational weight gain. Thus, there is a great need to link implicit brain responses to food with explicit measures of food intake behaviour, especially in the perinatal period. The aim of this study is to investigate the spatiotemporal brain dynamics to visual presentations of food in women during pregnancy and in the post partum, and link these brain responses to the eating behaviour and metabolic health outcomes in women with and without GDM.

Methods and analysis This prospective observational study will include 20 women with and 20 without GDM, that have valid data for the primary outcomes. Data will be assessed at 24–36 weeks gestational age and at 6 months post partum. The primary outcomes are brain responses to food pictures of varying carbohydrate and fat content during pregnancy and in the post partum using electroencephalography. Secondary outcomes including depressive symptoms, current mood and eating behaviours will be assessed with questionnaires, objective eating behaviours will be measured using Auracle and stress will be measured with heart rate and heart rate variability (Actiheart). Other secondary outcome measures include body composition and glycaemic control parameters.

Ethics and dissemination The Human Research Ethics Committee of the Canton de Vaud approved the study protocol (2021-01976). Study results will be presented at public and scientific conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.

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Journal: BMJ open. 2023 Apr 1;13(4):e067013

Keywords: food cravings, gestational diabetes mellitus, gestational weight gain, heart rate variability, pregnancy, stress,

Applications: HRV,

CamNtech Reference: AH23017

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