A Study Shows That Too Much Folate In Prenatal Vitamins Can Lead To Autism

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As if the risk of your child developing autism is not scary enough, a study pinpoints an association between the risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder and a crucial ingredient found in prenatal vitamins — folate.

Folate, or folic acid, is an important component in many biological reactions, including DNA synthesis and proper cell division. According to New York Magazine‘s The Cut, doctors for years have advised pregnant women to up their folic acid intake in order to avoid brain and spinal birth defects. It’s not uncommon for prenatal vitamins to contain an amount of folate that’s 100 percent more than the daily recommended amount.

But a new study shows high levels of folate consumption is associated with children developing an autism spectrum disorder. As explained in The Cut article:

So what does the new study show, exactly? The research, conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that “if a new mother has a very high level of folate right after giving birth – more than four times what is considered adequate – the risk that her child will develop an autism spectrum disorder doubles.” They also found that very high vitamin-B12 levels are “potentially harmful, tripling the risk that her offspring will develop an autism spectrum disorder.” Moreover, if both levels are extremely high, the risk that a child will develop the disorder increases 17.6 times.

Those findings sound extremely scary, don’t they? This could be especially worrisome since folate is added to a lot of our food staples, in addition to making a prominent appearance in prenatal vitamins. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should do away with supplemental folate completely, though. Pregnant women and their babies still benefit enormously from this vitamin, but the key is to aim for a specific level, rather than overdoing it.

But what is that optimal dose? According to the lead author, women may still need more education on that. “We tell women to be sure to get folate early in pregnancy,” says lead author Ramkripa Raghavan. “What we need to figure out now is whether there should be additional recommendations about just what an optimal dose is throughout pregnancy.” Basically, get the right amount of vitamins, don’t overdo them — which is about as close to conventional wisdom as you can hope to get.

(via The Cut)