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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid