Pregnant women are vulnerable to a low zinc status due to the additional zinc demands associated with pregnancy and foetal development. The present systematic review explores the relationship between habitual vegetarian diets and dietary zinc intake/status during pregnancy. The association between vegetarian diets and functional pregnancy outcome also is considered. A literature search was conducted of MEDLINE; PubMed; Embase; the Cochrane Library; Web of Science; and Scopus electronic databases up to September 2014. Six English-language observational studies qualified for inclusion in the systematic review. A meta-analysis was conducted that compared the dietary zinc intake of pregnant vegetarian and non-vegetarian (NV) groups; the zinc intake of vegetarians was found to be lower than that of NV (−1.38 ± 0.35 mg/day; p < 0.001); and the exclusion of low meat eaters from the analysis revealed a greater difference (−1.53 ± 0.44 mg/day; p = 0.001). Neither vegetarian nor NV groups met the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc. In a qualitative synthesis; no differences were found between groups in serum/plasma zinc or in functional outcomes associated with pregnancy. In conclusion; pregnant vegetarian women have lower zinc intakes than NV control populations and both groups consume lower than recommended amounts. Further information is needed to determine whether physiologic adaptations in zinc metabolism are sufficient to meet maternal and foetal requirements during pregnancy on a low zinc diet.
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