A cross-sectional study of general cognitive abilities among Uruguayan school children with low-level arsenic exposure, potential effect modification by methylation capacity and dietary folate

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Abstract

Background:

Few studies have evaluated the association between low-level arsenic (As) exposure and cognitive performance among children.

Objectives:

In this cross-sectional study, we assessed the association between low-level As exposure and cognitive performance among 5–8 year-old children in Montevideo, and tested effect modification by As methylation capacity and children's dietary folate intake.

Methods:

We measured total urinary As (UAs) concentrations and the proportion of monomethylarsonic acid (MMA) in the urine of 328 children. Seven subtests of the standardized Woodcock-Muñoz cognitive battery were used to assess cognitive performance, from which, the general intellectual abilities (GIA) score was derived. Total folate intake was estimated from two 24-h dietary recalls. Linear regression analyses were performed. Effect modification was assessed by stratifying at the median %MMA value and tertiles of total folate intake calculated as micrograms (μg) of dietary folate equivalents (dfe).

Results:

The median UAs was 11.9 μg/l (range = 1.4–93.9), mean folate intake was 337.4 (SD = 123.3) μg dfe, and median %MMA was 9.42 (range = 2.6–24.8). There was no association between UAs and cognitive abilities, and no consistent effect modification by %MMA. UAs was associated inversely with concept formation, and positively with cognitive efficiency and numbers reversed subtest in the lowest folate intake tertile; UAs was also positively associated with sound integration in the second tertile and concept formation in the highest tertile of folate intake. There was no consistent pattern of effect modification by %MMA or folate intake.

Conclusion:

There was no association between low-level As exposure and general cognitive abilities.

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