According to Norwegian researchers, folic acid taken before and during pregnancy might lower the risk of autism. Women who take folic acid supplements a month before the pregnancy as well as in the first weeks of pregnancy may have a lower risk of giving birth to autistic children.
Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate and plays a vital role in the production of new cells during pregnancy and infancy. Folate and folic acid are necessary to produce RNA and DNA, to make healthy red blood cells, and to metabolize homocysteine.
About the Study
The authors of the study deduced that folic acid supplements around the time of conception reduce the risk of neural defects in children, leading to the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid. Generally, women who are planning to become pregnant ideally take a daily supplement of folic acid a month prior to conception.
Pal Suren, MD, MPH of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and his team investigated the link between the intake of folic acid supplements around conception and the subsequent reduction in the risk of autism in children.
The study involved 85,176 children born in 2002-2008. By the end of 2012, the children’s ages ranged between 3.3 and 10.2, with an average of 6.4.
The results showed that .32% or 270 of the children were diagnosed with autism eventually. 114 of which had autistic disorder, 56 had Asperger’s, and 100 had PDD-NOS. An inverse risk was also found between the use of folic acid before and during the pregnancy and the subsequent diagnosis of ASD. .10% of the children whose mothers took folic acid a month before conception and on the first 2 months of pregnancy were diagnosed, while .21% of children whose mothers did not take folic acid were diagnosed with ASD.
Other studies have found similar results, such as one from UC Davis MIND Institute, which found that taking folic acid during the first month of pregnancy reduces the risk of having an autistic child.
Although the findings do not establish a cause-effect relationship between autism and folic acid use, they provide a rationale for replicating the analyses in other studies to further investigate the genetic factors and biological mechanisms that may explain the association.
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