A nutritious, well-balanced eating plan can be one of the greatest gifts a mother can give to her soon-to-be-born baby. While pregnant, women typically need approximately 300 extra calories per day during 2nd and 3rd trimester. The balance diet with all nutrients plays an important role in the development and growth of the baby, but inadequacy of micronutrients has been found a critical concern among pregnant women and young children throughout the world. Iron and folic acid are the two major nutrients that are crucial during pregnancy for neurodevelopment of the baby. Iron deficiency is considered to be the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world, affecting 2 billion people, according to the World Health Organization. A recent study reveals the realization on the important role of folic acid and iron during pregnancy and show that mothers who take both the nutrients during pregnancy have smarter babies.
About the study
Previous studies of prenatal dietary supplementation have been inconclusive, so the researchers from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore studied 676 children, aged 7 to 9 years who were born to women in a community-based. The study was a double-blind, randomized controlled trial conducted in Nepal. During the study children were randomly assigned to receive daily iron, folic acid and zinc, or multiple micronutrients containing these plus 11 other micronutrients.
The researchers assessed various aspects of their intellectual, motor, and executive functioning using the universal nonverbal intelligence test (UNIT) and Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC) respectively.
Researchers found that children whose mothers had received the iron and folic acid supplements during pregnancy were positively associated with general intellectual ability, some aspects of executive function, and fine motor control compared to children of mothers in the control group.
The research is published...
in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Role of Iron
Iron is a mineral with a very vital role in the development of the central nervous system (CNS). Lack of iron during pregnancy compromises the development of the nerves, as well as biochemistry and metabolism, which in turn affects not only the fine motor development, but also intellectual development.
Role of folic acid
Folic Acid also called folate, is a B vitamin. It helps the neural tube grow in the fetus, which develops into the brain and spinal cord. Without folic acid, the neural tube may not close correctly that can lead to spina bifida — a condition in which the spinal cord and/or a sac filled with fluid protrude through an opening in the back — or anencephaly. Folic acid can reduce the incidence of neural tube defects by as much as 70%, according to the CDC
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, concluded that antenatal iron and folic acid supplementation should be encouraged internationally in low- and middle-income settings. Poor communities can avail of such service as these supplements are available at low cost.