‘Well water triggers respiratory infections in babies’
• Breast-feeding may cut risk of Type 2 diabetes for some women • Caffeine in pregnancy does not harm child’s IQ • Adding folic acid to bread, flour would prevent children being born or aborted with diseases like spina bifida
A new study suggests that babies exposed to high levels of arsenic in the womb, through their mothers drinking well water, are at increased risk for infections and respiratory symptoms in their first year of life.
Researchers, in the study was published recently in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, measured levels of arsenic in 412 pregnant women in New Hampshire whose homes had private wells. For a year after their babies were born, the women were surveyed every four months about the number and severity of their children’s infections and respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing.
Infants exposed to arsenic in the womb had more infections that led to a doctor visit or treatment with prescription medications, the investigators found. In addition, those exposed to higher levels of arsenic in the womb tended to have more upper and lower respiratory tract infections, as well as respiratory symptoms.
Also, new research suggests another potential benefit for moms who breast-feed- a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study, published online November 23 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that breast-feeding for more than two months was linked to around a 50 percent reduction in the odds of developing type 2 diabetes for mothers who had already experienced gestational diabetes in the past. The study noted that the longer women breast-fed, the lower the odds of type 2 diabetes.
Meanwhile, a new study suggests that moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy don’t appear to be linked to a child’s risk for lower IQ or behavior problems.
The research, published November 18 online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, included nearly 2,200 women in the United States whose caffeine intake was measured during pregnancy. The pregnancies occurred between 1959 and 1974, a period of time when coffee consumption during pregnancy was more common, according to researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, United States.
Children born to these women had IQ and behavioral assessments when they were four and seven years old. The researchers found no evidence that mom’s caffeine consumption during pregnancy had any effect on children.
In a previous analysis of data from the same group of women, the researchers also found that higher amounts of caffeine consumption during pregnancy was not linked to children’s risk of obesity.
Also, health experts have urged that folic acid should be added to bread and flour to prevent hundreds of babies being born or aborted every year with diseases like spina bifida.
Although pregnant women have been urged to take folic acid supplements for decades the rates of neural tube defects – birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord – have not fallen.
The Food Standards Agency has recommended that folic acid be added to bread and flour, like in the US, but the government has still not acted on the advice.
In research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), experts from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), said voluntary measures were failing.
The researchers, including from the University of Oxford, said: “Neural tube defects represent one of the most prevalent groups of birth defects with serious consequences for newborns and their families.
Meanwhile, senior author Margaret Karagas, chair of epidemiology at Dartmouth College’s School of Medicine in Hanover, N.H., said in a college news release: “These results suggest that arsenic exposure may increase the risk and severity of certain types of infections.
“Respiratory infections and symptoms during infancy could signal a greater risk of later life atopy (the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases) or respiratory impairment.”
Previous research has linked high levels of arsenic exposure to immune system disruption and greater susceptibility to infection. Well water is the main source of arsenic for most people, and nearly 10 percent to 15 percent of private wells in New Hampshire have arsenic levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit.
All households with a private well should have their water tested for arsenic, the study authors recommended.
A senior research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Northern California and study author, Erica Gunderson, said: “The main policy implication is that we need to focus our breast-feeding promotion efforts to high-risk women, those who are obese or have a pregnancy with gestational diabetes.”
However, this study did not show that breast-feeding caused a lower risk of type 2 diabetes; it only found an association between these factors.
The study reported that Gunderson’s team followed more than 900 women two years after they had gestational diabetes during pregnancy and gave birth. During this time, 12 percent of them developed type 2 diabetes.
How the women fed their babies was categorized into five groups: exclusive breast-feeding, exclusive formula feeding, mostly breast-feeding (less than six ounces of daily formula), mostly formula (more than 17 ounces of daily formula) and mixed feeding (seven to 17 daily ounces of formula).
Moms who exclusively breast-fed their babies had a 54 percent lower risk of developing diabetes compared to moms who only used formula, the study noted. Women who fed their babies a mixture of formula and breast milk or even mostly used formula reduced the odds of type 2 diabetes by more than a third compared to formula-feeding alone, researchers found.
The length of breast-feeding also appeared related to type 2 diabetes risk, the study showed.
Breast-feeding for more than 10 months was linked to the mother’s reduced risk of diabetes by 57 percent compared to breast-feeding two months or less. Moms who breast-fed their babies somewhere between two months and 10 months had about half the risk of developing diabetes compared to those who breast-fed less than two months, according to the study.
So how might breast-feeding help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes? In several ways, Gunderson said.
“Lactation gives the insulin-producing cells in the body a rest because they don’t have to make so much insulin to lower blood glucose,” Gunderson said. “Breast-feeding uses up glucose and fat in the blood because those nutrients are transferred from the bloodstream into the breast tissue for milk production.”