Taking Folic Acid Around Conception May Help Reduce Autism Risk from Pesticides

Autism and Folic AcidAccording 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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Folic Acid and Dementia: Supplementation Benefits Elderly People with Mild Cognitive Decline

Folic Acid and Cognitive ImpairmentElderly people with mild cognitive impairment saw significant improvements in both cognitive performance and reduced inflammation when supplementing with 400 mcg of Folic Acid daily for a period of 12 months.

Over 150 seniors with mild cognitive impairment were randomly assigned to two groups.  One group received daily Folic Acid supplementation (400 mcg) and the other group was a conventional-treatment group.

Significant improvements in cognitive function were seen in the group supplementing with Folic Acid.  Additionally a significant reduction in levels of inflammatory cytokines was seen.  Peripheral inflammatory cytokines appear to be biomarkers for identifying individuals who may be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Researchers believe looking at the role of inflammatory markers at the onset of dementia, before full clinical dementia syndrome has developed, is essential.  Researchers concluded that folic acid has significant memory enhancing and anti-inflammatory properties.

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Vitamins May Have Larger Role in Halting Brain Decline

Vitamin B is for BrainA new review claims folate and related B Vitamins play a role in slowing down brain function decline as well as playing a role in age-related depression.  These findings look at certain B Vitamins as being equally as successful in supporting the reduction in the risk of mental and cognitive disorders which occur with aging, as nutrients like Omega-3 Essential Fatty acids as well as polyphenols like Resveratrol.  Researchers believe these B Vitamins have the ability to improve the quality of life for the elderly.

Researchers concluded that folate and Vitamin B12 play essential roles in the long term management of dementia and age-related depression.  Inconsistencies of vitamin experiments coming from uncertain study design and methodology were identified by the research team.  B Vitamins and their role in supporting a healthier cognitive function in the aging process received more interest than B Vitamins and their role in age-related depression.

Over 46 million people worldwide experience some form of dementia and it is believed that this number will increase by over 65% by the year 2026.  Although the role of nutrients in supporting brain health is often underestimated nutrients are never fully discounted as being an effective means to aid in improving cognition in ageing.

Researchers are recommending that future studies use some form of imaging technology to confirm effective nutritional interventions.

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Prenatal Folic Acid Could Benefit Children’s Psychological Development

Prenatal Folic AcidA new study finds that supplementation with Folic Acid has beneficial effects on the psychological development of children if taken during the first trimester and beyond.

39 women participated in this randomized controlled trial.  22 of the participating mothers supplemented with folic acid throughout their pregnancy while the remaining 17 only supplemented with folic acid for the first three months of their pregnancy.  At age 7 the 39 children were monitored by asking the parents to answer a questionnaire.  This questionnaire asked questions about the children’s personalities, relationship with others, levels of resilience and abilities to express emotion.  The study results showed that the children of the mothers who supplemented with the Folic Acid throughout their full pregnancy had a higher level of emotional resilience and intelligence.

Folic Acid supplementation during the first trimester of pregnancy has been shown, and is well established, as being important to a baby’s spinal development.  Researchers concluded this study shows the potential psychological benefits achieved through Folic Acid supplementation throughout a women’s full pregnancy.

Further research is planned.

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Could Folic Acid Decrease Dementia Risk?

Folic Acid and DementiaResearch suggests daily supplementation with folic acid may reduce the risk of having dementia in populations with low levels of this B vitamin and no program to fortify the diet with this nutraceutical.

Data from over 1,300 participants was analyzed.  Face to face interviews were done at the beginning of this study, the Three-City Study, to identify health related issues, socio demographic information and lifestyle characteristics.  All participants completed a 24 hour dietary recall and were dementia free at the time of the diet assessment.  Participants were followed for approximately 7 and ½ years.

Higher intakes of folate (folic acid) were inversely associated with the risk of dementia with approximately a 50% lower risk for participants with the highest folate levels compared to those with the lowest folate levels.

78 countries currently call for mandatory fortification programs for folic acid.  This was done to reduce and prevent neural tube defects in newborn babies.

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Folic Acid Fortification Linked to Lower Heart Defect Rates

heart diseaseAccording to new research, foods fortified with the B vitamin folic acid have been found to reduce the number of babies born with abnormalities of the heart by 11%.

In this study data from a population based cohort study of almost 6,000,000 live births and stillbirths, which included late-pregnancy terminations, delivered after a gestation period of over 20 weeks was used.  The study looked at data gathered over a 22 year period in 14 different Canadian geographic areas.  The study was done in Canada where folic acid fortification was mandated in November of 1998.

Over 72,000 CHD (congenital heart defect) cases were diagnosed at the time of birth and in infancy.  This occurrence rate was compared to rates of CHD diagnosed prior to 1998 when mandatory fortification was put into effect.  The beneficial effects of folic acid were seen in certain types of CHD but not in others.  A 27% reduction in heart outflow tract abnormalities was seen.  Additionally a 23% reduction in aorta narrowing was found and a 15% reduction in holes that occur in the heart wall separating the heart’s chambers was also seen.

It is believed that women who are trying to get pregnant or are likely to get pregnant should start supplementing with folic acid before they actually get pregnant since it is likely that they are not receiving enough folate from their diet alone.  Folic acid is required for cell growth and cell division and is considered a necessary nutrient for reducing neural tube defects in newborns in addition to reducing heart defects in newborns.

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