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Iron Supplements in Pregnancy & Autism

An American study recently carried out on a large group of pregnant women has found that those with the highest iron intake compared to those with the lowest intake was associated with a reduced risk of having a baby affected with ASD.  Low iron intake significantly interacted with advanced maternal age and metabolic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, with these combined factors associated with a 5-fold increased ASD risk.

 However, this study does have some limitations as it only measured iron intake as opposed to actual iron status ( level of iron in the blood) and the dietary iron came from a variety of sources, including fortified cereals and different brands of supplement, making it difficult to standardise 'treatment'.


We already know that iron is an incredibly important nutrient which is involved in brain development so it's potential role in the development of any neurodevelopmental disorder is certainly valid. It is also well established that a significant proportion of  women have a poor iron status due to factors such as prolonged dieting, preference for 'white' rather than red meat as a perceived healthier option and increased menstrual losses.  Poor iron status is then further exacerbated by the extra demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

In the UK, there is currently no general recommendation for pregnant women to take supplementary iron during pregnancy or lactation unless they are recommended to do so by a Healthcare professional because they have developed anaemia. Eating plenty of iron-rich foods such as lean, red meat, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, dried apricots and pulses (peas, beans and lentils) remains the key recommendation for everyone, especially young women of reproductive age and children already affected by ASD.


Posted: September 2014

Source: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_148500.html

Reference: Schmidt et al, 2014 'Maternal intake of supplemntal iron and risk of autism spectrum disorder' American Journal of Epidemiology 


If you are concerned about the amount of iron in your child's diet then contact me at This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it   for more advice

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