Varying coefficient function models to explore interactions between maternal nutritional status and prenatal methylmercury toxicity in the Seychelles Child Development Nutrition Study.

Miranda L Lynch, Li-Shan Huang, Christopher Cox, JJ Strain, Gary J Myers, Maxine P Bonham, Conrad F Shamlaye, Abbie Stokes-Riner, Julie Wallace, E. M. Duffy, Thomas W Clarkson, Philip W Davidson

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Maternal consumption of fish during the gestational period exposes the fetus to both nutrients, especially the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), believed to be beneficial for fetal brain development, as well as to the neurotoxicant methylmercury (MeHg). We recently reported that nutrients present in fish may modify MeHg neurotoxicity. Understanding the apparent interaction of MeHg exposure and nutrients present in fish is complicated by the limitations of modeling methods. In this study we fit varying coefficient function models to data from the Seychelles Child Development Nutrition Study (SCDNS) cohort to assess the association of dietary nutrients and children's development. This cohort of mother-child pairs in the Republic of Seychelles had fish consumption averaging 9 meals per week. Maternal nutritional status was assessed for five different nutritional components known to be present in fish (n-3 LCPUFA, n-6 LCPUFA, iron status, iodine status, and choline) and associated with children's neurological development. We also included prenatal MeHg exposure (measured in maternal hair). We examined two child neurodevelopmental outcomes (Bayley Scales Infant Development-II (BSID-II) Mental Developmental Index (MDI) and Psychomotor Developmental Index (PDI)), each administered at 9 and at 30 months. The varying coefficient models allow the possible interactions between each nutritional component and MeHg to be modeled as a smoothly varying function of MeHg as an effect modifier. Iron, iodine, choline, and n-6 LCPUFA had little or no observable modulation at different MeHg exposures. In contrast the n-3 LCPUFA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) had beneficial effects on the BSID-II PDI that were reduced or absent at higher MeHg exposures. This study presents a useful modeling method that can be brought to bear on questions involving interactions between covariates, and illustrates the continuing importance of viewing fish consumption during pregnancy as a case of multiple exposures to nutrients and to MeHg. The results encourage more emphasis on a holistic view of the risks and benefits of fish consumption as it relates to infant development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-80
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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