Iron deficiency during pregnancy linked with ASD

researchDavis, CA – A study conducted by researchers at the University of California Davis MIND Institute has found that children born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be potentially linked to iron deficiency in mothers during pregnancy.

The study conducted by researchers involved 520 mothers of children diagnosed with autism and 346 mothers of typically developing children. The participants were enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study in Northern California.

The research, which included both the mothers and their children in the study, found out that a majority of the children with autism were born to mothers who suffered from iron deficiency during their pregnancy.

The study was published earlier this week on the American Journal of Epidemiology.

According to the research, the mothers of the children with autism were found to have notably less likely to have taken iron supplements during the time of their conception.

Rebecca J. Schmidt, department of public health sciences assistant professor and researcher at the MIND Institute, said that the new findings that associate the lack of iron during the early stages of fetal development cohere with the fact that iron plays a massive role in brain development. According to Schmidt,

“Iron is crucial to early brain development, contributing to neurotransmitter production, myelination and immune function. All three of these pathways have been associated with autism.”

The study also found that mothers aged 35 and older who lack sufficient iron intake during their pregnancy are five times more likely to conceive a child in risk of later on developing ASD. Mothers who suffer from metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, on the other hand, are also found likely to have children who are in risk of developing autism.

According to Schmidt, the study brings us one step closer to identifying the factors that cause autism, but noted that they intend to be cautious with the results which she said still need to be replicated. Schmidt told:

“In the meantime the takeaway message for women is do what your doctor recommends. Take vitamins throughout pregnancy, and take the recommended daily dosage. If there are side effects, talk to your doctor about how to address them.”

Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta