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Study: Women who take folic acid lessen risk of autism in children

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A new study has found that women who take folic acid supplements early in their pregnancy may reduce their child's risk of autism by 40 percent. However - researchers say that mothers-to-be should start taking them four weeks before conceiving and eight weeks afterwards in order to get the full benefit for their unborn child.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Furthermore, the timing of taking prenatal supplements is critical, scientists warn.

Folic acid, or Vitamin B9 is required for DNA synthesis and repairs. It's naturally occurring form, folate, is found in leafy vegetables, peas, lentils, beans, eggs, yeast and liver.

Folic acid is also known to protect against spina bifida and other neural tube defects in children. The most current study examined more than 85,000 babies born in Norway between 2002 and 2008 and proved that it may offer protection against Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"We examined the rate of autism spectrum disorders in children born to mothers who did or did not take folic acid during pregnancy," Epidemiologist Pel Surin of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health says.

"There was a dramatic reduction in the risk of autistic disorder in children born to mothers who took folic acid supplements."

Norwegian health authorities since the late 1990s have recommended that all women planning to become pregnant take a daily supplement of folic acid from one month before the start of pregnancy.

Studying the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study and its sub-study of autism, the Autism Birth Cohort Study in which 85,176 babies born between 2002 and 2008 participated.

The expectant mother's dietary habits were recorded and families were regularly surveyed for three to 10 years to measure the development of autism spectrum disorders.

The study found that a total of 270 cases of autism spectrum disorders were identified in the study population - 114 autistic disorders; 56 Asperger syndrome; and 100 atypical or unspecified autism, otherwise known as pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

It was also found that mothers who took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy had a 40 percent reduced risk of having children with autistic disorder compared with mothers who did not take the supplement.

The reduction in risk for autistic disorder, or the most severe form was found in those who took folic acid from 4 weeks before to 8 weeks after the start of pregnancy.

"Our findings extend earlier work on the significance of folate in brain development and raise the possibility of an important and inexpensive public health intervention for reducing the burden of autism spectrum disorders," Professor of Epidemiology Ezra Susser at Columbia University said.

The study linking folic acid supplements with a reduced risk of autism is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1570279


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