Autism Disorders in Children May Be Linked to Iron Deficiency in Mothers

According to a recent study, autism disorders in children may be linked to the iron intake of their mother during pregnancy. Mothers of children with autism were noted to have taken less iron supplements before and during their pregnancy than those with typically developing children.

The Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study incorporated over 350 pairs of mothers and children, which included both children with autism, and children developing typically. Among the participants, it was found that mothers with a low iron intake were five times more likely to have a child on the autism spectrum if they were older than 35 at the time of the child’s birth, or if they suffered from metabolic conditions such as diabetes.

Dr. Rebecca J. Schmidt, assistant professor with the Department of Public Health Sciences and researcher with the MIND Institute states, “The risk associated with low maternal iron intake was much greater when the mother was also older and had metabolic conditions during her pregnancy”. She continues, “The association between lower maternal iron intake and increased ASD risk was strongest during breastfeeding, after adjustment for folic acid intake”.

Researchers precisely analyzed the supplements the mothers’ took during pregnancy, including vitamins, as well as the nutritional content of their breakfast cereals. Researchers examined the frequency and dosages of the supplements consumed in order to accurately study iron intake through supplementation.

Dr. Schmidt states, “Iron is crucial to early brain development, contributing to neurotransmitter production and immune function. These pathways have been associated with autism”. She adds, “Iron deficiency is pretty common, and even more common among women with metabolic conditions. However, we want to be cautious and wait until this study has been replicated. In the meantime, the takeaway message for women is to do what your doctor recommends. Take the recommended daily dosage [of vitamins throughout pregnancy].”

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