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Comp Med. 2013 Apr;63(2):127-35.

Effect of dietary iron on fetal growth in pregnant mice.

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Columbia University Institute of Comparative Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York, USA.


Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder. Children and pregnant women are at highest risk for developing iron deficiency because of their increased iron requirements. Iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy is associated with adverse effects on fetal development, including low birth weight, growth retardation, hypertension, intrauterine fetal death, neurologic impairment, and premature birth. We hypothesized that pregnant mice fed an iron-deficient diet would have a similar outcome regarding fetal growth to that of humans. To this end, we randomly assigned female C57BL/6 mice to consume 1 of 4 diets (high-iron-low-bioavailability, high-iron-high-bioavailability, iron-replete, and iron-deficient) for 4 wk before breeding, followed by euthanasia on day 17 to 18 of gestation. Compared with all other groups, dams fed the high-iron-high-bioavailability diet had significantly higher liver iron. Hct and Hgb levels in dams fed the iron-deficient diet were decreased by at least 2.5 g/dL as compared with those of all other groups. In addition, the percentage of viable pups among dams fed the iron-deficient diet was lower than that of all other groups. Finally, compared with all other groups, fetuses from dams fed the iron-deficient diet had lower fetal brain iron levels, shorter crown-rump lengths, and lower weights. In summary, mice fed an iron-deficient diet had similar hematologic values and fetal outcomes as those of iron-deficient humans, making this a useful model for studying iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy.

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