Australian Chinese team effort shows iron could save the lives of China’s children

Many scientists like to discuss how each form of cancer is a distinct disease with its own causes and its own treatments. But researcher Hartmut “Hucky” Land, Ph.D., takes the opposite approach: He is hunting for the most basic rules that all cancers share to make good cells go bad. His unique, far-reaching effort to

Full Post: $2.7 million boosts effort to create the big view of cancer

A team effort between Australian and Chinese scientists could save the lives of many Chinese babies.

The team from the Xi’an Jiaotong University, The George Institute for International Health and Sydney University’s School of Public Health, have been involved in a new study in China which has revealed the significant impact of iron supplements during pregnancy on preventing deaths in infants under four weeks of age.

The study was conducted over a four year period in two poor rural counties in northwest China, and set out to assess the impact of taking iron/folic acid and multiple micronutrient supplements containing 15 minerals and vitamins during pregnancy, compared with folic acid alone.

Lead investigator Professor Hong Yan from Xi’an Jiaotong University College of Medicine says the research demonstrates that nutrient supplements for pregnant women in developing countries need to have an adequate amount of iron to prevent premature births and reduce infant mortality.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have proposed the use of multiple micronutrient supplements during pregnancy, but this study found that although multiple micronutrients did improve birth weight more than iron folic acid, this greater increase in birth weight did not translate into reductions in infant deaths in the first month following birth.

Associate Professor Michael Dibley, from the School of Public Health and George Institute for International Health at Sydney University says after comparing the results with other studies in Indonesia, India, the United States, and Bangladesh, it appeared the reduction in neonatal mortality was related to the increased duration of pregnancy from the iron in the supplements.

China is the most populated developing country in the world, neonatal mortality accounts for more than 50% of the deaths of children under five - children with low birth weight are at a higher risk of death and one of the major causes of low birth weight in developing countries is the poor nutritional status of the mother before and during pregnancy.

Professor Dibley says it is estimated that 1.2 million low weight babies are born each year in China, but as yet there are no specific policies or programs for the distribution of multiple micronutrient or iron/folic acid supplements during pregnancy, even to disadvantaged women.

The research team collaborated with the local health services at county, township and village levels, and local government, in order to implement the study, an approach which has provided a suitable model to upscale the intervention on a larger scale in the future.

Professor Lingzhi Kong, the deputy director of disease control at China’s Ministry of Health says the research will provide vital evidence to assist in the formulation of China’s public health policy on nutrient supplementation in pregnancy, which will hopefully result in a significant reduction in the number of infant deaths.


Exposure to folic acid antagonists during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of placenta-mediated adverse outcomes such as preeclampsia, placental abruption, fetal growth restriction or fetal death reports a retrospective cohort study published in CMAJ (pdf). Folic acid antagonists include a broad range of drugs used to treat epilepsy, mood disorders, hypertension and infections.

Full Post: Exposure to folic acid antagonists during pregnancy has risks

The United States ranked 29th in the world in infant mortality in 2004, compared to 27th in 2000, 23rd in 1990 and 12th in 1960, according to a new report from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.78 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004, the latest

Full Post: New U.S. infant mortality data released

Women who are exposed to hairspray in the workplace during pregnancy have more than double the risk of having a son with the genital birth defect hypospadias, according to a new study published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study is the first to show a significant link between hairspray and hypospadias, one

Full Post: Significant link between hairspray and genital birth defect hypospadias

British scientists from Imperial College London say women who are exposed to hairspray in the workplace during pregnancy have more than double the risk of having a son with the genital birth defect hypospadias. The number of cases of hypospadias has risen sharply in recent decades, and the finger of suspicion has now been pointed

Full Post: Hairspray linked to common genital birth defect in baby boys

Fortification of corn masa flour products could increase folic acid intake by nearly 20 percent for Mexican-Americans, who are at a 30-40 percent higher risk for a number of severe brain and spinal birth defects, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study is published in the January

Full Post: Fortification of corn masa flour products could increase folic acid intake among Mexican-Americans