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Prenatal Vitamin Intake Linked to Lower Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The exact cause of autism spectrum disorder is unknown at this time, but researchers are working to find potential reasons. A recent study suggests that mothers who use folic acid multivitamin supplements before and during pregnancy may reduce the risk of their children having autism spectrum disorder.


Participants in the study included 45,300 children born between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2007. All of the participants were followed up from birth to January 26, 2015. 572 (1.3%) of the children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The researchers examined data on all of the children who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and a random sample that represented 33% of all live births during this time period as a control.


The researchers classified maternal vitamin supplements for folic acid, multivitamin supplements containing vitamins A, B, C, and D, and any combination of these before and during pregnancy.


After examining the data, the researchers found a significant association between mothers taking folic acid and/or multivitamins before and during pregnancy and a lower likelihood of autism spectrum disorder, when compared with mothers who took no vitamins.


Researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel led the study. It was published on January 3, 2018, in JAMA Psychiatry.


Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate plays an essential role in many of the necessary functions of the human body. It has been associated with nervous system function, red blood cell formation, and hormone function. Previous studies have also found a potential link between this vitamin and reductions in hearing loss and birth defects.


Our bodies do not naturally synthesize B vitamins. However, it is easy to increase your intake by eating more folate-rich foods, such as liver, eggs, beans, sunflower seeds, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupes, and other melons.

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