Folic Acid Intake During Pregnancy Linked to Reduced Autism Risk
Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Folic acid is well-tolerated in amounts found in fortified foods and supplements. Sources include cereals, baked goods, leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, lettuce), okra, asparagus, fruits (bananas, melons, lemons), legumes, yeast, mushrooms, organ meat (beef liver, kidney), orange juice and tomato juice. Folic acid is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex formulations.
Folic acid supplements are suggested for use in women of childbearing age in order to prevent neural tube defects. Neural tube defect risk appears to have decreased in many countries since folic acid fortification of flour and cereals.
In a new study, researchers analyzed data from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment Study (2003-2009). Participants included 429 families with an autistic child, 130 with a child of reported delayed development and 278 with a child of normal development. Each mother's daily folic acid intake was measured through phone interviews.
The researchers found that mothers with children of normal development reported consuming significantly more folic acid during the first month of pregnancy than those with autistic children. Average daily folic acid intake of at least 600 micrograms, compared with less than 600 micrograms, was linked to a reduced risk of having a child with autism.
Further research in this area is warranted before any firm conclusions can be made.
Autism is a brain disorder that is associated with a wide range of developmental problems, especially in communication and social interaction. The cause of autism remains unknown.
Although most children are not diagnosed with autism until they are around preschool age, the first signs of autism generally appear between 12 and 18 months of age. The severity of symptoms varies among patients. Some patients are able to live independently once they become adults, while others may need lifelong support.
Many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential use in autistic individuals. People with autism spectrum disorders often show a heightened interest and response to music. Music therapy may aid in the teaching of verbal and nonverbal communication skills and in establishing normal developmental processes. However, data are not conclusive.
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