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Am J Epidemiol. 1999 Sep 15;150(6):605-16.

Maternal supplemental and dietary zinc intake and the occurrence of neural tube defects in California.

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Department of Epidemiology, University of California, Berkeley, USA.


The authors investigated the association between maternal preconceptional supplemental and dietary zinc intake and risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) in a population-based case-control study conducted between 1989 and 1991 in California. Cases were 430 NTD-affected fetuses/infants, and controls were 429 randomly selected non-malformed infants. Mothers reported their preconceptional use of vitamin, mineral, and food supplements, and completed a 98-item food frequency questionnaire. Increased total preconceptional zinc intake was associated with a reduced risk for NTDs (quintile 5 vs. quintile 1, odds ratio (OR) = 0.65, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.43, 0.99). Phytate intake, a constituent of the diet known to impede zinc absorption, appeared to modify the zinc - NTD association. In addition, increased servings of animal products, the most bioavailable food source of zinc, was associated with a reduced risk for NTDs (quintile 5 vs. quintile 1, OR = 0.49, 95% CI 0.32, 0.76). Risk estimates for zinc intake were changed little after controlling for multiple sociodemographic factors and total folate intake, but were attenuated after controlling for nutrients highly correlated with dietary sources of zinc, such as protein. In sum, the analyses indicate that risk of NTDs in infants and fetuses decreased with increasing maternal preconceptional zinc intake. However, it remains unclear whether increased zinc intake, or another nutrient or combination of nutrients highly correlated with zinc intake in the diet, is causally associated with reduced NTD risk.

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