Largest-ever study to look at maternal nitrate consumption and birth outcomes

October 12, 2017, University of Illinois at Chicago

Nitrate is the most common contaminant in aquifers and tap water throughout the world, but its effects on human health remain largely unknown.

A group of international researchers led by Leslie Stayner, professor of epidemiology in the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, will conduct the largest-ever study of the effects of maternal consumption of nitrate-contaminated on birth outcomes among approximately one million babies born in Denmark.

"There are several animal studies that show high levels of nitrate consumption are linked to adverse birth outcomes, but there are only a handful of studies in humans, and those have relatively low numbers of participants and numerous design limitations," Stayner said. "We very much need large and well-designed population-based studies to determine what the impact of this very common chemical is on ."

Nitrate comes from nitrogen, a plant nutrient supplied by fertilizers and animal manure, both of which are used extensively in farming. While filtration facilities can remove many contaminants before water reaches homes, most county facilities in the U.S. cannot remove nitrates because the process-called reverse osmosis-is too expensive.

Stayner says Denmark provides "a practical treasure trove for epidemiological research" because its national health care system maintains a high quality database of patient medical records that is made available to qualified researchers. Stayner and his colleagues from Aarhus University in Denmark, the University of Copenhagen, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Iceland, and the Staten Serum Institut of Copenhagen, will examine the medical records of babies born in Denmark between 1997 and 2013, and will look for specific adverse outcomes, such as pre-term delivery, low birth weight, reduced head circumference and body length, and birth defects. Pre-term delivery is defined as birth prior to 37 weeks of gestation, which typically takes 40 weeks for normal birth weight babies.

Stayner will link this data with estimates of household concentrations of nitrate in drinking water and maternal consumption using data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, a database of maternal and child health information that includes data on maternal diet and water consumption habits. The database also has records on prescription and non-prescription medication use that will be examined to determine whether certain drugs boost the effects of nitrate.

"We will have information on the homes where these mothers lived during their pregnancies, and can derive an estimate of nitrate levels in their drinking water," Stayner said.

"This will be the largest-ever comprehensive study on the effects of nitrate in drinking water and the risk of adverse outcomes," Stayner said. "Our findings will have important implications for the development of policies on acceptable levels of in water to protect children."

Explore further: Pregnancy outcomes remain poor in mothers with childhood-onset T1D

Related Stories

Pregnancy outcomes remain poor in mothers with childhood-onset T1D

September 15, 2017
New research presented at this year's European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal (11-15 Sept) shows that pregnancy outcomes remain poor in women with type 1 diabetes (T1D), despite ...

Recommended for you

Patient-centered visual aid helps physicians discuss risks, treatments with parents

September 21, 2018
A series of illustrations and charts designed as decision aids for parents of children with minor head injuries helped them communicate with emergency medicine physicians and make informed decisions about their child's care, ...

It's not just for kids—even adults appear to benefit from a regular bedtime

September 21, 2018
Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But it's not just an issue of logging at least seven hours of Z's.

Most nations falling short of UN targets to cut premature deaths from chronic diseases

September 21, 2018
People in the UK, US and China have a higher risk of dying early from conditions like cancer, heart disease and stroke than people in Italy, France, South Korea and Australia.

Alcohol responsible for one in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO

September 21, 2018
Alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year—more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined, the World Health Organization said Friday, adding that men are particularly at risk.

Smart pills dumb down medical care, experts warn

September 21, 2018
Enthusiasm for an emerging digital health tool, the smart pill, is on the rise but researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have published a paper in the American Journal of Bioethics that cautions health care ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.