News / Asia

Pregnant Women Who Take Iron, Folic Acid Have Smarter Babies

Babies of mothers who took supplements had improved intellectual functioning as well as better fine motor skills.
Babies of mothers who took supplements had improved intellectual functioning as well as better fine motor skills.

Multimedia

Audio
Rose Hoban

New research reinforces the importance of prenatal iron supplementation for good birth outcomes and continued good health for growing children.

Studies over the past 20 years have pointed to the importance of micronutrients - substances found in small amounts in foods that make a big difference. One of the most important micronutrients for pregnant women is iron. Iron is vital to the development of a fetus' central nervous system, says Parul Christian, a nutritionist working at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

"Early iron deficiency can change the neuro-anatomy of the brain, and impact the neuro-chemistry of the central nervous system and brain metabolism, that are important for cognitive development, for sensory-motor development."

But providing vitamin and micronutrient supplements to all pregnant women can be a significant financial burden in low income countries. Some experts argue that it's enough to give infants iron supplements after they're born. That was part of the reason Christian and her colleagues decided to study poor women in Nepal a decade ago. Some of the women got supplements without iron and folic acid, another important micronutrient, while others got supplements with both micronutrients.

"That study was completed in 2001 and showed iron and folic acid supplementation could have an impact on infant and later childhood survival," Christian says.

That earlier study strengthened the case for supplements, but Christian's new research shows an even longer term impact on children who received iron in utero. She and her colleagues returned to Nepal, and were able to test the neurological development on children who were now on the brink of adolescence.

"The offspring of the mothers who had received iron and folic acid during pregnancy through three months postpartum had improved intellectual functioning including improved working memory and inhibitory control, which are domains capturing executive function, and they had better fine motor functioning ability as well."

Christian adds there was a qualitative difference between these older children and those whose mothers had received the supplements without iron.

She says these outcomes should remove any doubts lingering in the minds of health planners about whether or not to spend extra dollars to make sure that each pregnant woman receives iron supplementation during pregnancy. And she says in places such as the Asian subcontinent - where iron deficiency is endemic - supplementing with iron delivers an even larger bang for the public health buck.

Christian's research appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid