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Autism Linked to Low Iron Intake in Pregnant Women
- Updated: September 22, 2014
Researchers from the University of California-Davis discovered that children born to mothers with low intake of iron during pregnancy have a five-times greater risk of developing autism.
The study, which was conducted at the university’s MIND institute, looked at the connection between iron intake during pregnancy and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The findings of increased risk of autism and iron intake in the form of supplements were specific to women 35 years or older or those living with a metabolic condition to include high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity.
According to Rebecca J. Schmidt, researcher associated with the MIND Institute but also assistant professor with the department of public health and sciences, the greatest risk was for mothers who were breastfeeding and after folic acid intake was adjusted.
The Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment Study (CHARGE) based in Northern California, focused on mothers and children as pairs, which included children diagnosed with autism and those with normal development.
In particular, maternal iron intake was examined including vitamins, as well as cereals and other nutritional supplements during the three months prior to conception and then through delivery and on to periods of breastfeeding.
As stated by Schmidt, the most common nutrient deficiency, especially during pregnancy, is iron deficiency, which can result in anemia. This deficiency reportedly affects up to 50% of women and their babies. Not only is iron critical to early brain development, it also contributes to immune to myelination function, as well as neurotransmitter production, all three being pathways linked to autism.
Although this study has revealed some very important information, researchers agree they are being cautious with the results until another study can replicate their findings. In the meantime, experts hope that women will take the necessary vitamins during pregnancy as instructed by their doctors.
Most pregnant women tolerate supplements well but if someone experiences side effects, the issues need to be discussed with the medical professional.