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Moms-to-be, here’s a simple way to cut your child’s risk of having autism: take prenatal iron supplements. According to researchers from the University of California-Davis MIND Institute, low iron intake among pregnant women is linked with the greater risk, about five times more, of autism in children.

For many decades, research studies have revealed that iron during pregnancy is essential in developing the baby’s brain. But this study is actually the first in creating a direct link between iron and autism.

“This is the first study to demonstrate that maternal iron intake might be associated with autism in the child,” Rebecca Schmidt, lead researcher and assistant professor of the Public Health Sciences Department of the university, said. “Iron contributes to neurotransmitter production, myelination, and immune function; [impairment] of all three of these pathways has been associated with autism.”

It was revealed in the study that moms who had the most iron intake, either through fortified sources like cereals or from nutritional supplements, had the lowest risk of autism in their children. But Ms. Schmidt qualified this, saying, high amounts of iron intake does not necessarily negate autism. In the end, it all boils down on how these women absorb and process the iron intake in their bodies; this is where age, weight, diseases, and other risk factors of autism come into play.

Ms. Schmidt, however, warned that too much iron from supplements can be toxic, adding that the best sources of iron are those from food. “Typically, foods are better sources of iron because you cannot get too much food iron, but you can get too much supplemental iron, which can be toxic,” she explained. Iron supplements are highly recommended only when women are not getting enough iron from their diet.

Other risk factors of autism include age, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes; as to the age factor, the risk of autism in children is higher when the expecting mom is aged 35 or older.


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