(NaturalNews) Giving pregnant women folic acid and iron supplements may increase the intelligence of their children later in life, according to a study conduced by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association."
The researchers studied school-aged children in rural Nepal whose mothers had previously participated in a clinical study while pregnant. During that prior study, some of the mothers had been given folic acid and iron supplements.
"We had the opportunity to follow the offspring of women who had participated in a randomized trial of iron and folic acid and other micronutrients to assess neurocognitive function and outcomes," researcher Parul Christian said.
The researchers found that children whose mothers had received supplements scored higher on tests of intelligence, organization and fine motor skills than children of mothers who had not received supplements.
"What we showed is prenatal iron and folic acid supplementation had a significant impact on the offspring's intellectual level and motor ability and ability during school age, which was a very exciting finding," Christian said. "It had an impact across a range of function, including intellectual function, executive function and fine motor function."
Iron and folic acid are both known to play important roles in early nerve development.
Although the difference in scores on the universal nonverbal intelligence test was only 2.4 points between supplemented and non-supplemented children, a difference of that scale could be highly significant on a population level, the researchers said, calling for improved prenatal care for poor communities.
Prenatal care is already known to improve birth outcomes.
"Women who receive prenatal care enjoy the lowest risk of maternal and infant mortality in history," writes Tori Hudson in the book "Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine."