Offspring whose mothers had been supplemented with iron-folic acid during pregnancy had dramatically reduced mortality through age 7, a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has revealed.
The researchers found that other supplement combinations, including the multiple micronutrient supplement, did not confer the same benefit.
"In a setting where maternal iron deficiency and anemia are common, we found a 31 percent reduction in childhood mortality due to maternal antenatal and postnatal supplementation with iron-folic acid compared to a control," said Parul Christian, DrPH, MSc, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health.
"A reduction in mortality resulting from an intervention, such as iron-folic acid supplementation during pregnancy, provides a new and previously unreported evidence of benefit to offspring during childhood. To our knowledge this is the first time the long-term effects of maternal iron-folic acid supplementation on childhood survival have been examined," Christian added.
Christian and colleagues examined the long-term impact of micronutrient supplementation on childhood survival, growth, and early markers of chronic disease among the offspring of women who received micronutrient supplementation.
The study is a follow-up to a 1999 to 2001 randomized, double-masked trial of the administration of micronutrients during pregnancy to women in the rural southern plains district of Sarlahi, Nepal.
At the time the team examined folic acid; folic acid-iron; folic acid-iron-zinc, as well as a multiple micronutrients that contained the foregoing plus 11 other micronutrients.
Vitamin A alone was provided in the control group and each of the four supplement groups also contained vitamin A.
They found that iron-folic acid supplementation relative to the control significantly reduced the prevalence of low birth weight by 16 percent and the prevalence of maternal anemia during pregnancy and the postpartum period by 50 percent.
The results are featured in the September 24 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.