Risk from excess iron during pregnancy

By Van Waffle

Summary: This was the first study to investigate the risk for celiac disease in children whose mothers took iron supplements during pregnancy. Iron plays an important role in immune system development and in excess may have negative impact.

This 10-year study in Norway tracked the development and health of 79,000 children. Their mothers answered a series of questionnaires during pregnancy, infancy and childhood about iron supplements, diet, anemia and more. Information from a national patient register was also included to track their medical histories up to 8 years of age, identifying 314 children with celiac disease.

Conclusion: Children whose mothers took iron supplements during pregnancy were 33 percent more likely to be diagnosed with celiac disease. The association was similar for pure iron or multivitamins containing iron.

The effect did not appear in mothers who consumed more iron in their food or took other supplements including folic acid, fish oil, multivitamins and minerals not containing iron. The risk was not associated with maternal anemia.

The authors speculate excess iron may play a role in the development of celiac disease. They recommend against routine use of iron supplements during pregnancy, pointing out many women in the study used them without any evidence of anemia. In the United States, the recommended average daily intake of iron during pregnancy is 27 milligrams, achievable with a healthy food selection.

In response to this study[i], three American celiac disease experts commented that the increased risk, while statistically significant and interesting, is small. It may provide insight but cannot account for the increasing epidemic of celiac disease. They state it is too soon to argue that women should avoid iron supplements during pregnancy even if the child is at risk for celiac disease.

[i] “The unfolding story of celiac disease risk factors”, Lebwohl B, Judvigsson JF, Green PHR, #Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology# (2014) 12:632-635.

 

[1] “Association between maternal iron supplementation during pregnancy and risk of celiac disease in children”, Størdal K, Haugen M, Brantsæter AL, Lundin KEA, Stene LC, #Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology# (2014) 12:624-631.

[1] “The unfolding story of celiac disease risk factors”, Lebwohl B, Judvigsson JF, Green PHR, #Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology# (2014) 12:632-635.