Concentrations of essential trace elements in maternal serum and the effect on birth weight and newborn body mass index in sub-arctic and arctic populations of Norway and Russia
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BACKGROUND: This project is part of an assessment of the impact of environmental factors on human health in the Kola Peninsula of Russia and the neighboring arctic area of Norway. Pregnant women and their newborns were studied to explore a relationship between maternal status of essential metals and birth weight. METHODS: Life-style information and serum specimens were collected from at least 50 consecutive mother-infant pairs from hospital delivery departments in three Russian and three Norwegian communities (N=151 and 167, respectively). Pregnancy outcomes were verified by consulting medical records. Copper, selenium and zinc in serum were determined by atomic absorption spectrometry and ferritin by an automated analyzer method. RESULTS: Mean birth weight and child's body mass index (BMIC) were significantly lower in the Russian group (p<0.001), with or without adjustment for gestational age. Copper, iron (as ferritin) and selenium serum concentrations were in the normal range, while zinc levels in both countries were mostly below the lower limit (10.8 micromol/L) of reported reference intervals. A positive correlation between zinc and birth weight or BMIC was only observed for concentrations exceeding 10.8 micromol/L. Analysis by quartiles showed that maternal urinary creatinine and birth weight were negatively correlated (p=0.001). The influence of the different elements on BMIC, grouped by quartiles, was significantly positive only for selenium (p=0.03) and ferritin (p=0.02), while there was no significant relationship for copper or zinc. Adjustment of birth weight and BMIC for gestational age did not alter substantially the various associations indicated. CONCLUSIONS: With the exception of zinc, the mineral status of delivering women in arctic and sub-arctic regions of Norway and western Russia appears to be adequate. The significantly lower BMIC for the Russian group suggests the likely occurrence of nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy in Russia. However, the significant contribution of a country factor in the predictive model implies that the maternal serum trace-element concentrations explored in this study are incomplete indicators of fetal undernourishment.