NutriFem: Challenges in achieving adequate dietary status of women of reproductive age (L3-50125)

Project co-financed by
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Participating research organisations

  • Nutrition Institute, Ljubljana (leading organisation)
  • National Institute of Public Health
  • VIST Faculty of Applied Sciences


  • Slovenian Research and Innovation Agency (ARIS)
  • Ministry of Health of the Republic of Slovenia

Project leader

  • Assoc. prof. dr. Katja Žmitek [SICRIS]

Project operation

1.10.2023 - 30.9.2026

Diet is well recognised as modifiable lifestyle parameter, influencing both - overall health, and risks for development of a number of non-communicable diseases. Nutritional status of women in their reproductive age is of special importance, due to strong link between mother’s nutritional status and health of her child. Because many pregnancies are unplanned, maintenance of optimal nutritional status throughout the reproductive years is essential to ensure normal foetal development. Although women of reproductive age are more at risk for anaemia and some micronutrients deficiencies than other groups, in Slovenia there is lack of reliable data on nutritional status of this population group. Available evidence is indicating some higher diet-related risks in women of reproductive age, in comparison to other population groups. In Slovenia adult women are also a sub-group with highest prevalence of following special dietary practices, such as vegetarianism and veganism, which could affect their intakes of certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron and calcium. Consequently, those practices can have long-term effects on their health. For example, B12 deficiency could result in irreversible neurodegenerative disorders. Considering that special dietary practices of women of reproductive age could also have direct impact on child development, it is even more important to better identify diet related risks in this sub-groups.


Key scientific challenges addressed in this applied research project are to investigate the dietary habits and nutritional status of women of reproductive age, to provide epidemiological data on the nutrient intakes in this group (including intakes of key micronutrients) and investigate their relationship with various markers of health. We will evaluate dietary behaviours and special dietary practices among women of reproductive age in Slovenia, through age-representative sampling approach. We will also detailly assess dietary supplementation practices in this population group. Dietary intakes of macro and key micronutrients and nutritional/health status will be evaluated using a cross-sectional epidemiological study. Further we will investigate links between dietary behaviours with nutritional and health status in order to identify increased nutritional and health risk, as well as potential benefits of different dietary practices. We will particularly focus into following sub-groups of women: omnivorous women, that do not follow any special diet, women that follow vegetarian diet, and women that follow vegan diet. In order to investigate the status of the key micronutrients, standard blood biomarkers will be used. This will allow us to determine nutritional status for iron, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Body composition will be estimated using bioelectrical impedance spectroscopy (BIS). Other measurements of health-related parameters will include tissue protein density using ultrasonography. Study results will give insights into the nutritional status in general group of women of reproductive age and enable us to identify links between dietary behaviours with nutritional as well as health status. Through that approach we will be able to identify potential risk for deficiencies of nutrients in studied population group. Practical dietary and supplementation recommendations can be designed specifically for women of reproductive age and further optimised for specific target groups following special diets, to minimise potential risk for deficiencies.

Project goals

Applying a highly multidisciplinary approach and building on previous research projects the proposed project will address the following:

  • O1: To evaluate dietary behaviours of women of reproductive age (20-49 years) through representative sampling approach. This will enable identification of diet related risks in this group.
  • O2: To determine dietary supplementation practices of women of reproductive age (20-49 years). This will allow us to better estimate intakes of specific nutrients, as supplements can be important dietary source of nutrients.
  • O3: To investigate nutritional status of women of reproductive age (20-49 years) in Slovenia with a combination of validated standard dietary assessment methods and blood biomarkers. This will enable also insights in nutritional status for key micronutrients, including iron, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
  • O4: To investigate links between dietary behaviours with nutritional/health status, providing information about sub-populations with higher health risks. To enable this, population of omnivorous subjects will be compared with those on vegetarian and vegan diet.
  • O5: To support policymakers with evidence needed for future decisions in the area of nutrition and public health. Project results will support future evidence-based recommendations and policy decisions, targeting women of reproductive age.

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Nutrition institute is engaged in research and education in the field of nutrition and advising the food industry in the formulation and labeling of foods. In the scope of the institute, research group Healthy Nutrition is established, which performs research on food and nutrition.