Multivitamins in pregnancy may be linked to lower autism risk in children

October 4, 2017, British Medical Journal
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Taking multivitamins during early pregnancy may be associated with a reduced risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children compared with mothers who do not take multivitamins, finds a study published in The BMJ today.

The researchers stress that their findings cannot establish cause and effect, but say they raise questions about a possible association that warrant further investigation.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes a range of conditions, including Asperger syndrome, that affect a person's social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. It's estimated that about 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASD. More boys are diagnosed with the condition than girls.

Research indicates that ASD most likely develops in the womb and that a mother's diet during pregnancy could have an influence. But results from previous studies have been inconsistent, suggesting that other unmeasured factors (confounding), such as a mother's overall health and lifestyle, could also play a role.

So an international research team set out to assess whether nutrient supplementation during pregnancy is associated with reduced risk of ASD, with and without intellectual disability.

They applied three to a sample of 273,107 mother-child pairs living in Stockholm, Sweden. The sample was restricted to children who were 4 to 15 years of age by December 31 2011 and were born between 1996 and 2007.

Women reported their use of , iron, and supplements at their first antenatal visit and cases of child ASD were identified from national registers.

After adjusting for several potentially influencing factors in both mothers and children, the researchers found that multivitamin use, with or without additional iron and/or folic acid, was associated with a lower likelihood of child ASD with intellectual disability relative to mothers who did not use folic acid, iron, and multivitamins.

There was no consistent evidence that either iron or folic acid use were associated with a of ASD.

The results of the various analyses seemed to be consistent with each other, say the authors, suggesting that the association between multivitamins and ASD might not be fully explained by confounding.

They point to several study limitations, such as the potential for confounding and difficulty assessing type, timing and dose of supplements. However strengths included the relatively large population-based sample size and the advanced analytical methods used to gauge the robustness of findings.

"Together, the three analyses appear to point toward a potential inverse association between multivitamin use with ASD with ," say the authors.

Given the current understanding and strength of evidence supporting the importance of nutritional supplementation during pregnancy, "it is impossible to imagine that these results, on their own, should change current practice," they write. However, they say these findings "raise questions that warrant investigation" and call for verification in randomised studies "before recommending a change to current practice."

Explore further: Study points to link between antidepressant use in pregnancy and autism in children

More information: Antenatal nutritional supplementation and autism spectrum disorders in the Stockholm youth cohort: population based cohort study, www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j4273

Related Stories

Study points to link between antidepressant use in pregnancy and autism in children

July 19, 2017
Children exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy seem to be at a slightly higher risk of autism than children of mothers with psychiatric disorders who were not treated with antidepressants during pregnancy, finds a study ...

Psychological benefits for kids when mums keep taking folic acid

May 4, 2017
Children's emotional intelligence improved if mums take folic acid supplements throughout pregnancy.

No statistically significant risk of ID in children from mothers using antidepressants

July 12, 2017
A study published by JAMA Psychiatry reports no evidence of an association between intellectual disability in children and mothers who took antidepressant medication during pregnancy when other mitigating factors, such as ...

Folic acid may mitigate autism risk from pesticides

September 8, 2017
Researchers at UC Davis and other institutions have shown that mothers who take recommended amounts of folic acid around conception might reduce their children's pesticide-related autism risk.

Multivitamin and mineral supplements for mums-to-be are needless expense

July 11, 2016
Multivitamin and mineral supplements, often promoted to pregnant women as a means of giving their child the best possible start in life, are unlikely to be needed by most mums- to-be and are an unnecessary expense, concludes ...

Recommended for you

Removing sweets from checkouts linked to dramatic fall in unhealthy snack purchases

December 18, 2018
Policies aimed at removing sweets and crisps from checkouts could lead to a dramatic reduction to the amount of unhealthy food purchased to eat 'on the go' and a significant reduction in that purchased to take home, suggests ...

Junk food diet raises depression risk, researchers find

December 18, 2018
A diet of fast food, cakes and processed meat increases your risk of depression, according to researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Children of problem drinkers more likely to marry someone with a drinking problem: study

December 18, 2018
Children of parents who have alcohol use disorder are more likely to get married under the age of 25, less likely to get married later in life, and more likely to marry a person who has alcohol use disorder themselves, according ...

Folate deficiency creates hitherto unknown problems in connection with cell division

December 17, 2018
Folate deficiency creates more problems in connection with DNA replication than researchers had hitherto assumed, researchers from the University of Copenhagen show in a new study. Once a person lacks folate, the damage caused ...

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

Study shows magnesium optimizes vitamin D status

December 14, 2018
A randomized trial by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers indicates that magnesium optimizes vitamin D status, raising it in people with deficient levels and lowering it in people with high levels.

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.