High folic acid level in pregnancy may decrease high blood pressure in children

March 8, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new article published in the American Journal of Hypertension finds that babies born to mothers with cardiometabolic risk factors were less likely to develop high blood pressure if their mothers had higher levels of folate during pregnancy.

Since the late 1980s, the prevalence of childhood elevated has increased in the United States, in particular among African Americans. From a life course perspective, childhood can predict higher blood pressure values later in life, and people with higher blood pressure are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular, metabolic and kidney disease and stroke. Research has also shown that maternal cardiometabolic risk factors during pregnancy—including hypertensive disorders, diabetes, and obesity—are associated with higher offspring blood pressure.

Because controlling hypertension and cardiovascular disease in adults is difficult and expensive, identifying early-life factors for the prevention of high blood pressure may be an important and cost effective public health strategy.

There is growing evidence that maternal nutrition during pregnancy, through its impact on the fetal intrauterine environment, may influence offspring cardiometabolic health. Folate, which is involved in nucleic acid synthesis, gene expression, and cellular growth, is particularly important.

In young adults, higher folic acid intake has been associated with a lower incidence of hypertension later in life. Citrus juices and dark green vegetables are good sources of folic acid. However, the role of maternal folate levels, alone or in combination with maternal cardiometabolic risk factors on child blood pressure has not been examined in a prospective birth cohort.

In the current study, researchers analyzed the data from a prospective U.S. urban birth cohort, enriched by low-income racial and ethnic minorities at high risk for elevated BP, to examine whether maternal folic acid levels and cardiometabolic risk factors individually and jointly affect offspring blood pressure.

Researchers included 1290 mother-child pairs, 67.8% of which were Black and 19.2% of which were Hispanic, recruited at birth and followed prospectively up to age 9 years from 2003 to 2014 at the Boston Medical Center. Of the mothers, 38.2% had one or more cardiometabolic risk factors; 14.6% had hypertensive disorders, 11.1% had diabetes, and 25.1% had pre-pregnancy obesity. A total of 28.7% of children had elevated at age 3-9 years. Children with higher systolic blood pressure were more likely to have mothers with pre-pregnancy obesity, hypertensive disorders, and diabetes. Children with elevated systolic blood pressure were also more likely to have lower birth weight, lower gestational age, and higher BMI.

The study findings suggest that higher levels of maternal folic acid may help counteract the adverse associations of maternal cardiometabolic risk factors with child systolic blood pressure, although maternal folic acid levels alone were not associated with child systolic blood pressure. Among children born to mothers with any of the cardiometabolic risk factors, those whose mothers had folic acid levels above the median had 40% lower odds of elevated childhood systolic blood pressure. These associations did not differ appreciably in analyses restricted to African Americans, and they were not explained by gestational age, size at birth, child postnatal folate levels or breastfeeding.

"Our study adds further evidence on the early life origins of high blood pressure," said Dr. Xiaobin Wang, the study's senior corresponding author. "Our findings raise the possibility that early risk assessment and intervention before conception and during pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent high blood pressure and its consequences across lifespan and generations."

Explore further: Researchers reverse high blood pressure in offspring of hypertensive rats

More information: Hongjian Wang et al, Association of Maternal Plasma Folate and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Pregnancy with Elevated Blood Pressure of Offspring in Childhood, American Journal of Hypertension (2017). DOI: 10.1093/ajh/hpx003

Related Stories

Researchers reverse high blood pressure in offspring of hypertensive rats

February 22, 2017
Mothers contribute a lot of defining traits to their offspring, from eye color to toe length. But pregnant mothers with health complications, such as diabetes or hypertension, also can pass these symptoms to their children.

Maternal B12 levels impact children's cardiometabolic health

February 12, 2016
(HealthDay)—Mothers' vitamin B12 levels in early pregnancy may impact children's cardiometabolic risk factors at age 5 years, according to a study published in the February issue of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics ...

Proper maternal folate level may reduce child obesity risk

June 13, 2016
Proper maternal folate levels during pregnancy may protect children from a future risk of obesity, especially those born to obese mothers, according to a study led by researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Brain receptor identified as link between obese mothers and children's high blood pressure

October 12, 2016
Exposure of babies to high levels of the 'fullness' hormone, leptin, in the womb irreversibly activates receptors in the brain that regulate blood pressure, according to a new study by researchers from King's College London, ...

Hypertensive disorders during pregnancy increase risk for high blood pressure after delivery

January 28, 2016
Women who are diagnosed with hypertensive disorders while pregnant are more than twice as likely to develop high blood pressure in the first year after delivery as women who did not have any pregnancy-related hypertension, ...

Pregnant women with hypertension and their siblings face increased risk of heart disease

August 27, 2015
High blood pressure during pregnancy is a risk factor for future hypertension and cardiovascular disease, but it's not clear if this increased risk is because these women are more likely to have a family history of heart ...

Recommended for you

Researchers investigate the potential of spider silk protein for engineering artificial heart

August 18, 2017
Ever more people are suffering from cardiac insufficiency, despite significant advances in preventing and minimising damage to the heart. The main cause of reduced cardiac functionality lies in the irreversible loss of cardiac ...

Lasers used to detect risk of heart attack and stroke

August 18, 2017
Patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes may be spotted earlier thanks to a diagnosis tool that uses near-infrared light to identify high-risk arterial plaques, according to research carried out at WMG, University of ...

Cholesterol crystals are sure sign a heart attack may loom

August 17, 2017
A new Michigan State University study on 240 emergency room patients shows just how much of a role a person's cholesterol plays, when in a crystallized state, during a heart attack.

How Gata4 helps mend a broken heart

August 15, 2017
During a heart attack, blood stops flowing into the heart; starved for oxygen, part of the heart muscle dies. The heart muscle does not regenerate; instead it replaces dead tissue with scars made of cells called fibroblasts ...

Injectable tissue patch could help repair damaged organs

August 14, 2017
A team of U of T Engineering researchers is mending broken hearts with an expanding tissue bandage a little smaller than a postage stamp.

'Fat but fit' are at increased risk of heart disease

August 14, 2017
Carrying extra weight could raise your risk of heart attack by more than a quarter, even if you are otherwise healthy.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.