New Study Finds A Link
Spina bifida and other neural tube defects can be prevented if mom-to-be ingests enough folic acid during the early parts of her pregnancy. But researchers have recently discovered that there may be a link to folic acid consumption before pregnancy and a reduced risk of autism.
A Norwegian study followed more than 85,000 babies born from 2002 to 2008. Researchers queried the mothers on their folic acid intake, both before and during pregnancy. Around 270 children of those 85,000 were eventually found to be on the autism spectrum, but the questions were asked of the mothers before diagnosis to eliminate potential bias.
The study revealed that moms who took folic acid four weeks before, and eight weeks after, the start of pregnancy were 40 percent less likely to have a child who would be diagnosed with any form of autism.
“We know that folic acid deficiency leads to defects in the development of the nervous system,” said Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Texas, who was not involved in this study. “So it would not be surprising that a deficiency might also affect brain development in other ways.”
It’s important to note that the study doesn’t offer absolute proof, and it was not determined if the moms who didn’t take folic acid had other factors that would contribute to the risk of autism. But researchers say that the issue definitely merits further studies to see if there is more than a causal link between folic acid intake and potential for autism.
More about folic acid
Folic acid is present in all prenatal vitamins and quite a few regular multivitamins. The CDC recommends that all women of childbearing age take at least 400 micrograms daily. There are many food sources as well, such as fortified cereals and breads, leafy greens like spinach, egg yolk, baker’s yeast and organ meats such as liver and kidney.