News / Health

Folic Acid Supplements Shown To Reduce Risk Of Autism

Folic Acid Supplements Shown To Reduce Risk Of Autismi
X
April 18, 2013 12:00 AM
Doctors generally recommend that women take folic acid supplements if they plan to become pregnant - because the B-vitamin reduces the risk of life-threatening birth defects in their newborn. The March of Dimes, a private U.S. group that promotes maternal and child health, goes one step further. It urges that all women of childbearing age take these supplements, even if they are not planning a pregnancy. As VOA's Carol Pearson reports, a new study finds that folic acid supplements may also reduce the risk of a brain development disorder known as autism.
Carol Pearson
Doctors generally recommend that women take folic acid supplements if they plan to become pregnant - because the B-vitamin reduces the risk of life-threatening birth defects in their newborn.  The March of Dimes, a private U.S. group that promotes maternal and child health, goes one step further.  It urges that all women of childbearing age take these supplements, even if they are not planning a pregnancy.  A new study finds that folic acid supplements may also reduce the risk of a brain development disorder known as autism.

Green, leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts naturally contain folate, a B vitamin that helps the body make healthy new cells.  Most pre-natal vitamins include folic acid because it protects against defects in the formation of the neural tube, the precursor to the central nervous system.

Dr. Pal Suren is with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health:

“The neural tube is the origin of the human brain in the fetus and closes very early in development, and the neural tube defect is when this tube doesn’t close properly," said Suren..

Neural tube defects include spina bifida, a defect of the spine, as well as some brain defects.  Since taking folic acid supplements before or right after becoming pregnant prevents these defects, Dr. Suren and his colleagues wanted to find out if the supplements could also prevent autism. They asked thousands of pregnant women to record all dietary supplements they took.  After the children were born, the researchers reviewed the rate of autism.  

“We went back to the data we had from early pregnancy and compared those mothers who had taken folic acid to those who hadn’t taken any folic acid," he said.
 
They found that the women who took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy had a 40 percent reduction in the risk of having a child with autism.  But for those who started taking it in mid-pregnancy, there was no reduced risk. Dr. Ezra Susser of Columbia University was one of the co-authors.

“There’s a sensitive period in which folic acid supplements need to be taken in order to reduce the risk of autism," said Susser. "The period begins before pregnancy and continues approximately two months after pregnancy.”  

A recent survey conducted by the March of Dimes found that less than 30 percent of American women are aware that folic acid helps to prevent birth defects.

The March of Dimes' Dr. Ed McCabe says this is the result of two problems.

"Many pregnancies are unplanned, so women aren't thinking they are going to become pregnant, and therefore [that] they need to be on folic acid," said McCabe. "And then a lot of women don't know the importance of folic acid when they are becoming pregnant."

The March of Dimes hopes the new research will raise public awareness of the critical role folic acid plays in protecting babies' developing brains. The study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs