October 03, 2019
Children born to women with high leads levels in their blood are four times more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a new study.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, compared the weight measurements of children born to mothers with high lead levels and those with low lead levels.
Researchers examined data from 1,442 mother and child pairs found in the Boston Birth Cohort, a large observational study that has examined the causes of preterm delivery. They took blood samples from the mothers 24 to 72 hours after they had given birth. Researchers recorded the children's weight periodically throughout their childhood.
The findings suggest that the obesity epidemic potentially could be related to environmental chemical exposure in utero.
Still, among mothers with high lead levels, the risk of childhood obesity diminished if the mother displayed adequate levels of folate 24 to 72 hours postpartum.
Folate – a type of vitamin B – can prevent neural tube defects, such as spinal bifida. Health experts recommend women take 400 milligrams of folic acid, a synthetic version of the vitamin, each day.
Researchers also asked the women whether they took a folic acid supplement during the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies.
Researchers believe that the risk of childhood obesity may be reduced by testing women for lead levels and then recommending folic acid supplements to women with high lead levels. But their results first need to be confirmed.