Taking folic acid supplements in early pregnancy can prevent autism

Wednesday, March 06, 2013 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: folic acid, pregnancy, autism

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(NaturalNews) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 88 children in the U.S. has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) -- but little is known about how the disorder develops and methods for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment are limited. But now comes word from a large study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that offers hope autism and related disorders can be prevented before birth, naturally. The key? Taking prenatal folic acid supplements.

The research, compiled from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and its sub-study of autism, the Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study, an international collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Columbia University in New York, comprises the largest prospective birth cohort study designed to zero in on gene-environment interactions and biomarker discovery for neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism.

In all, 85,176 MoBa babies born between 2002 and 2008 and their parents participated in the study. Diets were recorded and records were kept on the development of autism spectrum disorders. The researchers found 270 cases of autism spectrum disorders in the children who participated in the study. However, moms who took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy -- specifically, four weeks before to eight weeks after the start of pregnancy -- had a 40 percent reduced risk of having children with autistic disorder (the most severe form of autism spectrum disorders) compared to mothers who didn't take the vitamin. The timing of a pregnant woman taking folic acid appears to be a critical factor, the researchers noted in their paper. A child's risk of autism was reduced only when the supplements were taken before pregnancy and during the first two months pregnancy.

"We examined the rate of autism spectrum disorders in children born to mothers who did or did not take folic acid during pregnancy. There was a dramatic reduction in the risk of autistic disorder in children born to mothers who took folic acid supplements," Pal Suren, first author and epidemiologist at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), said in a media statement.

In recent years, scientists have studied how folic acid may have other beneficial and protective effects on the development of an unborn baby's brain and spinal cord. For example, a study of language development from MoBa, published in 2011, found that youngsters whose mothers took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy had only half the risk of severe language delay at age three years compared with other children. More 2011 research from the University of California, Davis, showed a lower risk of autism spectrum disorders in children of mothers who had used prenatal vitamin supplements, which contained folic acid, during pregnancy.


About the author:
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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