Speed Reads

Correlation ≠ causation

Study: A mother's iron intake may be connected to autism risk

A new study suggests that a pregnant woman's iron intake could be associated with autism risk in her baby.

After interviewing hundreds of women, researchers have discovered that mothers of children with autism were less likely to remember to take iron supplements before and after pregnancy than other moms. That can't prove a link, since "it's just an association and needs to be replicated," lead author Dr. Rebecca J. Schmidt told Reuters. If it can be replicated, Schmidt says that it will "reinforce that women should be following current specific recommendations for iron intake before they get pregnant, during pregnancy, and during breastfeeding."

A deficiency in folic acid, or vitamin B, has also been linked to autism risk, and folic acid and iron are both important for fetal brain development. For the study, Schmidt and her co-authors interviewed women living in California with children between the ages of 2 and 5. They were asked about any prenatal vitamins, multivitamins, or supplements they took before, during, and after pregnancy, and also if they ate fortified cereals or other dietary sources of iron.

The researchers compared the results of the mothers of 520 children diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and the mothers of 346 children with typical development, and found that the women in the typical group got 57 milligrams of iron daily on average, compared to 51 milligrams per day in the autism group. That being said, the researchers say both amounts are still more than the recommended daily dose of iron.

This is the first study focused solely on iron intake and later autism risk, researchers say. Read more at Reuters.