Studies show that taking prenatal vitamins may help decrease the chances of infants developing autism even in families with higher risks. Folate, also known as folic acid, used as a dietary supplement has shown to significantly lower risks of developing ASD, also known as an autism spectrum disorder.
Autism Risk in the Family
Families have a higher risk of having another child with autism if they already have a child that is on the spectrum. Because of their genetics and heredity, they are 14 times more at risk to develop ASD. In JAMA Psychiatry, on February 27, new research was published that showed how even in high-risk families, prenatal vitamins are just as sufficient. Based off these studies, prenatal vitamins lower the risk of developing autism by 50% for these younger siblings.
Rebecca J. Schmidt, Ph.D. first author of the study and assistant professor in the department of public health sciences and the MIND Institute, UC Davis School of Medicine, informed Healthline that “Evidence is building for an important role of gestational exposures, including nutrition, in relation to autism. Research from imaging and other studies of the brain show that processes affected in autism occur during pregnancy. Studies have repeatedly shown that taking folic acid supplements was associated with protection from autism in the general population.”
Results of the Study on Prenatal Vitamins
Her studies showed how 241 families with ASD were affected by prenatal vitamins and supplements. They wanted to see if they were affected the same as other families and to see if they also received the same benefits from these supplements. The results showed that 96% of mothers said they took prenatal supplements, but the only ⅓ of supposed mothers took them in the recommended time, which was before pregnancy.
The study also showed that children were less likely to develop severe autism symptoms if the mothers took prenatal vitamins in the first month of their pregnancy. These children also received higher cognitive scores.
The results that came from these studies could profoundly impact public health. It is essential to spread the prevention of ASD for future generations. These findings can guide future expecting mothers with nutritional advice and inform them of health implications that come with supplements.
What the Study Could Mean
Vice-chair of the department of pediatrics at University of Missouri Health Care and part of Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Dr. Kristin Sohl, stated: “This is a small study that needs to be replicated in a larger sample before true risk reduction calculations and public health policy decisions can be made.”
Although Folic supplements have its pros, studies from Johns Hopkins University have revealed some cons. In 2016, researchers from the university released that mothers with high levels of vitamin b-12 and folic acid supplement had an 18% increase in chances of autism. But, only in extreme cases do prenatal supplements have a role in causing autism.
In the study, the women had excess levels of the vitamins and supplements; this was not the recommended intake by the World Health Organization. Even researchers from the survey agreed that prenatal vitamins were still essential and beneficial to mothers. Sohl adds on “Because many pregnancies are unplanned and because neural tube defects can develop in the first 28 days of fetal development, all women of child-bearing age are recommended to take increased folic acid.”
Parents should take the initiative to visit their doctors and consult about proper supplements and vitamins to take.
Inspired by www.healthline.com