Women who took folic acid supplements one month before becoming pregnant and two months into their pregnancy had a nearly 40 percent lower risk of giving birth to a child with the most severe form of autism, a Norwegian study has found.
The supplements, however, did not appear to reduce the risk of atypical or unspecified autism. Whether the supplements affect the risk of Asperger’s was not able to be determined.
“The study does not prove that folic acid supplements can prevent childhood autism,” said Dr. Pål Surén, lead author and researcher t at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo. “However, the findings are so apparent that they constitute a good argument to further examine possible causal mechanisms. It should also be ascertained whether folic acid is associated with a reduced risk of other brain disorders in children.”
Approximately one in 88 children in the United States has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Five times more common among boys than girls, ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
The folic acid supplement study, published in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, included data from more than 85,000 children born in Norway between 2002 and 2008. Six years after birth, 0.10 percent of the children born from mothers who took folic acid supplements were diagnosed with autism compared to 0.21 percent of children whose mothers did not take the supplements.
Federal health authorities in the United States recommend women take between 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day for those planning or capable of pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine, such as spina bifida.
Sources: Norwegian Institute of Public Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
+ Preconception care should begin at least three months before a woman becomes pregnant. Learn more about Bon Secours Health Services for Women.