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European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009) 63, 916–918; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2008.77; published online 4 February 2009

Zinc status and cognitive function of pregnant women in Southern Ethiopia

B J Stoecker1, Y Abebe2, L Hubbs-Tait3, T S Kennedy1, R S Gibson4, I Arbide5, A Teshome5, J Westcott6, N F Krebs6 and K M Hambidge6

  1. 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
  2. 2Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Hawassa University, Awassa, Ethiopia
  3. 3Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
  4. 4Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  5. 5Bushulo Health Centre, Awassa, Ethiopia
  6. 6Section of Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO, USA

Correspondence: Dr BJ Stoecker, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Oklahoma State University, 301 Human Environmental Sciences, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA. E-mail: barbara.stoecker@okstate.edu

Received 26 May 2008; Revised 30 November 2008; Accepted 2 December 2008; Published online 4 February 2009.

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Abstract

The relation between zinc status and cognitive function was examined in a cross-sectional study in the Sidama area of Southern Ethiopia. Pregnant women >24 weeks of gestation from three adjacent rural villages volunteered to participate. Mean (s.d.) plasma zinc of 99 women was 6.97 (1.07)μmol/l (below the cutoff of 7.6μmol/l indicative of zinc deficiency at this stage of gestation). The Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM) test was administered individually. Scores for the Raven's scale A, which is the simplest scale, ranged from 4 to 10 of a possible 12. Women with plasma zinc <7.6μmol/l had significantly lower Raven's CPM scale A scores than women with plasma zinc concentrations >7.6μmol/l. Plasma zinc and maternal age and education predicted 17% of the variation in Raven's CPM scale A scores. We conclude that zinc deficiency is a major factor affecting cognition in these pregnant women.

Keywords:

Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM), maternal cognition, zinc deficiency, Ethiopia

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