Folic acid’s latest benefit may be lowering the risk of autism

As well as lowering the risk of brain and spinal cord birth defects, folic acid is now believed to reduce the likelihood of having a child with autism if the mother takes this form of vitamin B for a time before becoming pregnant and during the pregnancy.

Those were the findings of a research team at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo that followed the cases of about 85,000 women and children they gave birth to between 2002 and 2008.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women who had taken folic acid early in their pregnancy had produced one autistic baby within 1,000 births, while those who didn’t take the B vitamin produced two autistic babies within 1,000 births.

“[The findings] provide an additional reason to take folic acid, in addition to the preventive effect that we already know it has against neural tube defects,” study leader Pal Suren, M.D., of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, told Reuters Health. “It underlines the importance of starting early, preferably before the pregnancy.”

Growing use of folic acid
Forms of vitamin B like folic acid are one of nature’s best building blocks. They help metabolize fats and proteins, strengthen immunity to illness, enhance cardiovascular health and liver function and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. As a key component in developing healthy red blood cells and overall cell reproduction, folic acid is also credited with bolstering brain and nervous system function, according to Elson Haas, M.D., who wrote the book, “Staying Healthy With Nutrition.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently advises women who are planning a pregnancy to take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid, also known as B9, every day. Both the United States and Canada also require that flour and enriched cereals be fortified with folic acid to reduce the incidence of birth defects, Reuters Health reported.

According to the National Council on Folic Acid, only about one-third of American women of child-bearing age consume the recommended dosage. If taken during pregnancy, vitamin B may prevent as much as 70 percent of some brain and spine birth defects.

Folic acid is an important ingredient among the eight forms of B vitamins found in Vital B-100, which was developed by nutritional expert Dr. Michael Pinkus for Dr. Newton’s Naturals. Coupled with antioxidant help from vitamins C, E and manganese, the capsule delivers 50 percent of the recommended daily value of folic acid as part of a 2,000 calorie daily diet.