Impact of Prenatal Lead Exposure and Iron Intake on Neurodevelopment in Early Childhood

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Topic(s): Nutrition Health & Wellness Obesity Nutrition & Disease Management

Effect of Prenatal Lead Exposure and Iron Intake on Early Childhood Neurodevelopment

Prenatal exposure to lead is a major concern worldwide due to its detrimental impact on neurocognitive development and its ability to cause neurological disorders in children. Since lead can easily pass through placental membranes, maternal exposure to lead can have significant impact on the foetus. In addition, low iron intake during pregnancy further increases the detrimental effects of lead. This study published in the journal Medicine aimed to investigate the association between prenatal lead exposure and neurodevelopment in children and the protective function of maternal iron intake against the adverse effects of lead exposure.

A total of 965 pregnant women and their subsequent offsprings from the Mothers and Children’s Environmental Health study were analysed. Neurodevelopment was assessed using the mental development index (MDI) and psychomotor development index (PDI) scores. The impact of prenatal lead exposure and maternal dietary iron intake on MDI and PDI of the children were analysed at 6, 12, 24 and 36 months using generalized linear model and linear mixed model analysis.

Deficits in MDI at 6 months were marginally linked to maternal late pregnancy lead levels. The detrimental effects of late pregnancy lead exposure on MDI at 6 months was significantly increased among mothers with a dietary iron intake <75th percentile during pregnancy. Furthermore, late prenatal lead exposure and less dietary iron intake during pregnancy were observed to have a significant negative impact on cognitive development of offspring for up to 36 months.

The study demonstrated a negative association between late pregnancy maternal blood lead levels of <5 µg/dL and cognitive development of children up to 36 months of age. This negative association was further aggravated by lower dietary iron intake during pregnancy. Reduction in lead exposure and adequate intake of iron during pregnancy are essential for proper neurodevelopment in children.

News Source: Shah-Kulkarni S, Ha M, Kim B, et al. Neurodevelopment in Early Childhood Affected by Prenatal Lead Exposure and Iron Intake. Medicine. 2016;95(4):e2508.