Prenatal iron and folic acid supplementation and children’s intellectual functioning

January 01, 0001

Prenatal iron and folic acid supplementation and children’s intellectual functioning

Micronutrients such as iron and zinc are thought to be important for neural development. These US and Nepalese researcher examined the effect of micronutrient supplementation in pregnancy on children’s subsequent intellectual and motor functioning. They performed a cohort follow-up 7 to 9 year olds n(n=679) whose birth was part of a earlier community-based, double- blind, randomized controlled trial of prenatal micronutrient supplementation in Nepal. The mothers in that trial had been randomized to daily iron/folic acid, iron/folic acid/zinc, or multiple micronutrients containing these plus 11 other micronutrients, and a control group. The children’s later intellectual functioning was assessed using the Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT), tests of executive function including go/no-go, the Stroop test, and backward digit span. Motor function was assessed using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC) and finger-tapping test.

The researchers found: "The difference across outcomes was significant for iron/folic acid vs control but not for other supplement groups. The mean UNIT T score in the iron/folic acid group was 51.7 and in the control group was 48.2, with an adjusted mean difference of 2.38. Differences were not significant between the control group and either the iron/folic acid/zinc or multiple micronutrient groups. In tests of executive function, scores were better in the iron/folic acid group relative to the control group for the Stroop test (adjusted mean difference in proportion who failed, -0.14) and backward digit span (adjusted mean difference, 0.36) but not for the go/no- go test. The MABC score was lower (better) in the iron/folic acid group compared with the control group but not after adjustment for confounders (mean difference, -1.47). Finger-tapping test scores were higher (mean difference, 2.05) in the iron/folic acid group."

The researchers concluded: "Aspects of intellectual functioning including working memory, inhibitory control, and fine motor functioning among offspring were positively associated with prenatal iron/folic acid supplementation in an area where iron deficiency is prevalent."

This study suggests possible long term developmental benefits to prenatal supplementation with iron and folate.

For the full abstract, click here.

JAMA 304(24):2716-2723, 22 December 2010
© 2010 to the American Medical Association
Prenatal Micronutrient Supplementation and Intellectual and Motor Function in Early School-aged Children in Nepal. Parul Christian, Laura E. Murray-Kolb, Subarna K. Khatry.

Category: T. Endocrine/Metabolic/Nutritional, W. Pregnancy, Family Planning. Keywords: pregnancy, iron, folic acid, supplementation, intellectual development, cohort study, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Paul Schaefer, Toledo, Ohio. Posted on Global Family Doctor 21 January 2011

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