Folic acid supplements during the pre-conceptional and prenatal periods may decrease the risk of autism in offspring

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a natural form of vitamin B9 found in foods such as dark leafy greens, beans, oranges and bananas. Studies have revealed links between folic acid (FA) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Characteristics of ASD include difficulty in understanding social cues, engaging in repetitive behaviours, and having very specific interests.

Researchers conducted a population study on toddlers in China from August 2016 to March 2017. The results showed that the offspring of mothers who never took FA supplements had a higher risk of developing ASD.

โ€œIn the nationwide cross-sectional study conducted in China, we found that mothers who did not take FA supplements during the prenatal period had a higher risk of having offspring with ASD compared to those who did take FA supplements,โ€โ€‹ the researchers wrote in Frontiers in Public Healthโ€‹.

Previous research indicated that folate and FA supplements could lower the risk of ASD. However, these studies were done mostly in Western countries and the results showed inconsistencies. In a separate case study undertaken ย in China, researchers could not determine whether taking FA supplements at certain pregnancy stages affected the risk of ASD in offspring.

Therefore, to further explore the link between FA and ASD, 6,049 toddlers aged 16โ€“30โ€‰months were assessed for this study. Their mothers were categorised into three groups: (1) continuously took FA supplements during the pre-conceptional and prenatal periods, (2) took FA supplements during either the pre-conceptional or prenatal period, and (3) never took FA supplements. The toddlers were then screened for ASD.

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