Maternal Iron Intake linked to Autism Risk

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A new study released from researchers at the University of California, Davis’ MIND Institute in Sacramento and subsequently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found that mothers of children who have autism spectrum disorder are less likely to have taken iron supplements than mothers of children without ASD.

Rebecca J. Schmidt, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and a researcher with the MIND Institute stated in the study that an iron deficiency, and its subsequent condition, anemia, is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy, affecting 40-50% of women during their pregnancies. Researchers found that low iron intake is linked with a 500% greater risk of autism if the mother is 35 or older, or if she has hypertension or diabetes.

Iron is liked to early brain development as well as neurotransmitter production, myelination and immune function, which are all pathways associated with autism. In 2011, Schmidt and her colleagues were the very first researchers to link folic acid with a reduced risk for autism and ASD. Larger child psychiatry studies later confirmed their findings.

The new study, which is the very first study to research the link between iron and the risk of autism, used data collected from mothers who were enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment Study between 2002 and 2009.