A study published in the JAMA Psychiatry suggests that women who took vitamin supplements and folic acid before or during pregnancy were less likely to have a child who would develop autism spectrum disorder.
The study took a sample of 45,300 children in Israel, both male and female, born between 2003 and 2007.
It was found that 572 (1.3%) of the sample were diagnosed with autism.
Results found that there was a 61% reduced risk of a child having autism when the mother had taken either multivitamin supplements or folic acid supplements before becoming pregnant.
The study also found that women who took the supplements during pregnancy were 73% less likely to have a child who would later on be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Commenting on the study, Dietitian Dr Carrie Buxton, from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service, said: “While this is an observational study and we need to be cautious, it is an important finding which contributes to our body of knowledge on factors linked with autism.
“Around 75% of women of childbearing age in the UK have an inadequate folate status putting their children at risk of neural tube disorders, such as spina bifida*. Only a quarter of women take the recommended folic acid supplements before conception and in the first trimester of pregnancy. It is possible, given these new findings, that a lack of key nutrients may also be an issue for autism risk.”
According to autism charities, over 695,000 people in the UK could be autistic with a prevalence rate of 1.1% in children.
It is recommended by Public Health England that women take a daily folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms if they are planning a pregnancy.
*Bates B et al. (2015) NDNS Supplementary Report: blood folate results for the UK as a whole, Scotland, Northern Ireland (years 1 to 4 combined) and Wales (years 2 to 5 combined). London.
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