Prenatal micronutrient supplementation could reduce noncommunicable diseases in children

October 28, 2022—Scaling up prenatal micronutrient supplementation could have population-wide benefits for the next generation, according to a new analysis led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Using data from 132 low- and middle-income countries, they estimated that a substantial number of noncommunicable disease (NCD) deaths and cases could be prevented or delayed if use of prenatal supplements including iron, calcium, and folic acid was increased. 

The study was published October 3, 2022, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

Evidence suggests that prenatal exposures including nutritional deficits can influence NCD risk in adulthood. 

The researchers created a model based on a cohort of approximately 127 million babies born in the study countries in 2015. They estimated that if 90% of this cohort’s mothers received multiple micronutrient prenatal supplements, more than 51,000 NCD deaths, six million cases of hypertension, and three million cases of diabetes could be averted. According to the model, calcium supplementation alone could also delay about 51,000 NCD deaths, and a combination of iron and folic acid, about 24,000 deaths.

Harvard Chan School authors included Mia Blakstad, Wafaie Fawzi, Marcia Castro, and Goodarz Danaei.

Read coverage in Healio: Micronutrient supplementation in pregnancy may prevent chronic diseases in children