Women often experience novel food aversions and cravings during pregnancy. These appetite changes have been hypothesized to work alongside cultural strategies as adaptive responses to the challenges posed by pregnancy (e.g., maternal immune suppression). Here, we report a study that assessed whether data from an indigenous population in Fiji are consistent with the predictions of this hypothesis. We found that aversions focus predominantly on foods expected to exacerbate the challenges of pregnancy. Cravings focus on foods that provide calories and micronutrients while posing few threats to mothers and fetuses. We also found that women who experience aversions to specific foods are more likely to crave foods that meet nutritional needs similar to those provided by the aversive foods. These findings are in line with the predictions of the hypothesis. This adds further weight to the argument that appetite changes may function in parallel with cultural mechanisms to solve pregnancy challenges.
- behavioral ecology