Maternal iron levels early in pregnancy are not associated with offspring IQ score at age 8, findings from a Mendelian randomization study

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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Iron is fundamental to many basic biological functions, and animal studies suggest that iron deficiency early in life can have a lasting impact on the developing brain.

SUBJECTS/METHODS: We used a population-based cohort of mothers and their children to assess the effect of iron status among pregnant women on the cognitive ability of their offspring. But to avoid the inherent confounding that occurs within observational epidemiology studies we examined the association of maternal genotype at single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the genes HFE (rs1799945) and (rs1800562), TF (rs3811647) and TMPRSS6 (rs1800562), which are related to iron, haemoglobin or transferrin levels, on their child's cognitive test scores at age 8.

RESULTS: We found strong associations between HFE and TMPRSS6 genotypes and mother's haemoglobin levels early in pregnancy (P-values are all

CONCLUSIONS: We therefore concluded that there is no evidence of an effect of exposure to low levels of iron (within the normal range) in pregnancy on offspring cognition at age 8. However, pregnant women in the UK with low haemoglobin levels are prescribed iron supplements and so we were unable to look at the effect of iron deficiency in our study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)496-502
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • iron
  • IQ
  • intelligence
  • genetic variants
  • mendelian randomization

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