Prenatal vitamins tied to lower autism risk in kids, study finds

January 3, 2018 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Taking folic acid and multivitamins during pregnancy could reduce your child's risk of autism, a new study suggests.

Kids were less likely to be diagnosed with if their moms took supplements before pregnancy and while they were expecting, according to a study of just over 45,000 Israeli children.

"Reduced risk of [autism] in offspring is a consideration for that may be realized by extended use of and multivitamin supplements during pregnancy," the researchers concluded in the report.

The international team of scientists, led by Stephen Levine from the University of Haifa in Israel, gathered data on tens of thousands of children born in Israel between 2003 and 2007, and followed their progress until 2015.

The team also gathered prescription data, to see whether the kids' mothers had been prescribed folic acid or supplements either prior to or during pregnancy.

Women who took supplements prior to pregnancy were 61 percent less likely to have a child diagnosed with autism, compared with moms who didn't take supplements, the researchers found.

In addition, taking supplements during pregnancy was linked to a 73 percent reduced risk of an , the findings showed.

The overall risk of autism remained low, with only 1.3 percent of the children in the study receiving a diagnosis.

But these study results suggest that taking folic acid and multivitamins could be a way to protect babies against the development of autism, said Tom Frazier, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, a group that promotes advocacy and support for individuals with autism and their families.

Women already are urged to take folic acid during pregnancy to prevent birth defects of the spinal cord and the brain, Frazier said. Multivitamins also are recommended to help cover any nutritional gaps in an expecting mom's diet.

"The study suggests this is not a trivial recommendation. This is something that people really should pay attention to," Frazier said. "The reduction in risk isn't huge, but it isn't small either."

Folic acid plays an essential role in fetal neural development, and a lack of the vitamin could possibly set the stage for later onset of autism, Frazier said. He's not sure how the protective effect of multivitamins might work.

But the study cannot prove a direct cause-and-effect link between supplements and autism due to its design, and suffers from some major limitations, said Dr. Ruth Milanaik. She is director of the neonatal neurodevelopmental follow-up program at Cohen Children's Medical Center, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

For example, the study could not clearly determine which women actually took their supplements, Milanaik argued.

Prescription records can't show whether women follow through and take their supplements, she said. Supplements also are available over-the-counter, and some of the moms could have purchased and taken them without waiting for a prescription.

"I don't have a problem with saying folic acid is good for pregnant women. You should not only take folic acid during pregnancy, you should also take folic before ," Milanaik said. "But this study does not show that [not taking supplements] is a cause of autism in any way, shape or form."

The study was published online Jan. 3 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Explore further: Folic acid lessens autism risk for fetal anti-epileptic exposure

More information: Tom Frazier, Ph.D., chief science officer, Autism Speaks; Ruth Milanaik, D.O., director, neonatal neurodevelopmental follow-up program, Cohen Children's Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: Jan. 3, 2018, JAMA Psychiatry, online

For more on folic acid and pregnancy, visit the March of Dimes.

Related Stories

Folic acid lessens autism risk for fetal anti-epileptic exposure

January 2, 2018
(HealthDay)—For children exposed to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in utero, the risk of autistic traits may be mitigated by use of periconceptional folic acid supplementation, according to a study published online Dec. 26 ...

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

October 4, 2017
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.

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.

Folic acid late in pregnancy may increase childhood allergy risk

December 22, 2017
Research from the University of Adelaide suggests that taking folic acid in late pregnancy may increase the risk of allergies in children affected by growth restriction during pregnancy.

Folic acid lowers risk of autism, study finds

March 11, 2013
Women who take a vitamin B9 supplement (folic acid) during the beginning weeks of their pregnancy can cut the risk of having a child with autism in half. But the supplement has no effect if it is started more than 8 weeks ...

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.

Recommended for you

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Linguistic red flags from Facebook posts can predict future depression diagnoses

October 15, 2018
In any given year, depression affects more than 6 percent of the adult population in the United States—some 16 million people—but fewer than half receive the treatment they need. What if an algorithm could scan social ...

Early changes to synapse gene regulation may cause Alzheimer's disease

October 15, 2018
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, involving memory loss and a reduction in cognitive abilities. Patients with AD develop multiple abnormal protein structures in their brains that are thought to ...

Clues that suggest people are lying may be deceptive, study shows

October 12, 2018
The verbal and physical signs of lying are harder to detect than people believe, a study suggests.

Why don't we understand statistics? Fixed mindsets may be to blame

October 12, 2018
Unfavorable methods of teaching statistics in schools and universities may be to blame for people ignoring simple solutions to statistical problems, making them hard to solve. This can have serious consequences when applied ...

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.