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Lower iron levels seen in newborns of obese mothers
Date:7/9/2012

BOSTON (July 9, 2012) -- A growing number of studies imply that children born to obese mothers face health problems stemming from the womb.

New research from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and The Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center suggests that low iron status is among these health problems, according to an analysis of maternal hepcidin, a hormone that is key in keeping iron levels balanced.

The study enrolled 15 obese pregnant women with body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 and 15 healthy weight pregnant women with BMIs between 20 and 25 as a control group. Maternal blood draws took place during the second trimester of pregnancy and newborn iron status was measured in cord blood.

The researchers found that being born to an obese mother with elevated hepcidin levels was associated with lower iron status at birth. Obese adults are known to produce higher levels of hepcidin compared to healthy weight adults and the researchers suggest that overproduction of the hormone interferes with the transfer of iron from mother to infant. The results were recently published online by the Journal of Perinatology.

During pregnancy, hepcidin levels are kept at low levels to optimize iron transfer from mother to fetus. "When there is excess hepcidin in a cell, it binds to and inhibits the function of ferroportin, the protein that allows iron to pass through the cell membrane and into the bloodstream," explained senior author Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (USDA HNRCA).

"The chronic low-grade inflammation that can result from being obese triggers an abnormal immune response, increasing production of proteins that increase hepcidin levels," added Maria Carlota Dao, first author and a doctoral student in the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the USDA HNRC
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Contact: Andrea Grossman
617-636-3728
Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus
Source:Eurekalert

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