Maternal Use of Folic Acid and Vitamins Linked to Reduced Autism Risk in Children

Folic Acid and Autism RiskAccording to a study done in Israel, mothers who supplement with a Multivitamin and Folic Acid, both before and during their pregnancy, reduce their child’s risk factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Researchers studied Israeli children born between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007.  Participants were followed up from birth to January 26, 2015 to determine the risk of ASD.  A random sample of 33% of all live-born children were chosen, this group contained cases of all children diagnosed with ASD and a control group.  The mother’s supplement use was classified for Folic acid, Multivitamin Supplements containing Vitamins A,B,C and D and and a combination of the two groups.  Additionally the intervals for supplementation (before and during pregnancy) were noted.

A statistically significant reduction in the likelihood of ASD was seen in women who supplemented with Folic Acid and/or a Multivitamin Supplement before pregnancy when compared with women who did not supplement either before or during pregnancy.  This is consistent with other studies which showed maternal Folic Acid supplementation 4 weeks prior to conception and 8 weeks into the pregnancy had a reduction in the risk of offspring with ASD.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) is well known for its benefits in the reduction of neural tube defects, like spina bifida in newborns, in addition to its support for reductions in developmental problems like placental abnormalities and heart defects.  Also a mother’s Folic Acid level during pregnancy has been associated with cognitive functioning in their offspring.



Study Links Multi Vitamins to Lower Autism Spectrum Risk

Multi Vitamin and AutismA new study finds supplementing with a Multi Vitamin during pregnancy may lower the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in children.    However, researchers caution that because the study was not able to establish a cause and effect relationship, further study is needed before changes are made to healthcare practices and policies.

Researchers analyzed data from over 270,000 mother and child pairs living in Sweden.  The data was adjusted for some confounding factors in both children and mothers. Three analytical methods were used for this analysis.  Women reported their use of Multi Vitamin supplements, folic acid and iron at their first prenatal visit. Cases of ASD were determined from the use of national registers. An inverse association between using a Multi Vitamin and ASD was observed.

There were however several limitations in the study data including the timing and dosages of the supplements and the difficulty in assessing type.  The results do press for further study.


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.



Carnitine Deficiency Linked to Mild Form of Autism

Autism and Carnitine DeficiencyA new research paper proposed a link may exist between a mild form of autism and a deficiency of L-Carnitine. Revolutionary implications in the prevention of autism would be triggered if this hypothesis were confirmed with additional clinical studies.  Genetic factors observed in autistic patients as well as results from animal studies lead researchers to infer low brain levels of L-Carnitine may result in a mild form of autism predominately affecting males.

Prior research has found 1 in 350 males cannot produce L-Carnitine because they have an inactive form of the trimethyllysine hydroxylase, epsilon gene (TMLHE).  Approximately 3% of these males with the inactive TMLHE gene develop autism.  Additionally TMLHE gene variation only accounts for 1% of autism case.  Hence, researchers have concluded that a brain L-Carnitine deficiency may account for a larger percentage of autism cases.

Symptoms of autism often begin at between 6 and 18 months of age.  Researchers believe the delayed onset of autism symptoms occur because L-Carnitine is delivered across the placenta and most infants are born with adequate L-Carnitine stores.  Also, infants formulas, cow’s milk and of course breast milk all contain abundant amounts of L-Carnitine providing adequate protection for the infant from an L-Carnitine deficiency during the early months of life.  The first foods introduced to an infant occur between ages 4 and 8 months and contain little or no L-Carnitine since meats are introduced later in the infant’s development.  The reduction in L-Carnitine is believed to lead to brain L-Carnitine deficiency and to autism.

Researchers are calling for more studies to confirm these findings.


Vitamin D3 Supplements Shown To Significantly Improve Autism Symptoms

autismA first of its kind study has shown taking a daily Vitamin D3 supplement may improve autism symptoms of children.

109 children, ages 3 thru 10 years of age participated in this double-blind, randomized clinical trial.  The study lasted four months.  The daily doses of D3 given to the participants worked out to be 300 IU per kg of the child’s body weight.  However the dose never exceeded 5,000 IU daily.   Researchers pointed out that the relatively high levels of Vitamin D were “well tolerated by the children participants and side effects like itching, diarrhea, and skin rashes were only seen in 5 of the children.

The severity of the autism in the participants and their social maturity were assessed using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) and the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC).  Symptoms like inappropriate speech, social withdrawal, hyperactivity and irritability were tracked using these assessments.

76.4% of the children given Vitamin D saw a 4-10 point drop in CARS Scores and 18.2% had a 1-3 point drop.  Only 5.4% of the children receiving the Vitamin D saw no improvements at all.

Researchers warned that this was one single study with a limited number of participants and more, larger scale studies were needed to validate the role Vitamin D might play in Autism Spectrum Disorder.