Are high lead levels in pregnancy linked to obesity in kids years later?

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Children whose moms had high levels of lead in their blood during pregnancy are more likely than others to carry excess weight by age eight, new research reveals.

The conclusion stems from a look at blood tests of more than 1 440 mothers within three days after delivery. Their lead levels were then compared to their offspring's weight fluctuations during childhood.

Folic acid reduces risk

The study couldn't prove cause and effect, but children whose moms had high levels of lead were four times more likely to be overweight or obese than those born to moms with low lead levels, researchers found.

However, folic acid, a supplement given to women to protect against neural tube birth defects, appeared to reduce that risk. The US Preventive Service Task Force recommends all women of reproductive age take 400 micrograms daily.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Researchers noted in a journal news release that when high lead levels were coupled with "adequate" folate levels, the child had a smaller risk of excess weight.

It was led by Xiaobin Wang, a professor in children's health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Image credit: iStock

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