According to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, mothers who were exposed to pesticides but had taken high doses of Folic Acid around the time they had conceived, had a reduced risk of giving birth to a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Data from the CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) trial was used in this case-controlled study. The children in the study varied in age from 2 to 5 years of age and included almost 300 children who had developed ASD and over 200 healthy controls. The researchers used interviews to evaluate Folic Acid consumption and peri-conceptual exposure to household pesticides. California Pesticide Use reports were used to link mothers’ addresses to agricultural pesticide exposure.
Because it is well known that pesticides can adversely affect DNA methylation, Folic Acid, a major methyl donor, plays an important role in DNA repair and synthesis as well as DNA methylation. This becomes especially important during periods of rapid cell growth, like when a fetus is developing.
Risk of a child developing ASD was halved in mothers supplementing with 800 mcg of folic acid in the first month of pregnancy who had been exposed to agricultural pesticides at any time in the 3 months either before or after conceiving. Low folic acid intake and regular exposure to foggers and outdoor pesticide sprays increased the risk of offspring developing ASD by 4 times when compared with mothers not exposed to pesticides and supplementing with high Folic Acid.
Researchers agree it is best for women to avoid chronic exposure to pesticides while pregnant, however higher Folic Acid consumption seems to lower ASD risk.
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