Folic acid can lead to autism, researchers claim. The authors of a new study on the matter warn pregnant women that too much folic acid is not good for the baby’s health.
For a long period of time, most pregnant women and women who were trying to conceive have been advised to take folic acid. It was believed to prevent birth defects. A new theory, however, comes to shake the common conception. A high level of this vitamin in the blood of mothers has been linked to the development of autism. Scientists have analyzed 1,391 mother-child pairs, from 1998 to 2013, and they found that high levels of vitamin B9 and B12 increase the risk of autism development by more than 17 times. About 100 babies were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder later in life.
The medical staff examined the levels of folate and vitamin B12 in the blood of the mothers. Sixteen of them had very high levels of folate and fifteen had elevated levels of vitamin B12.
Why such high levels? It could be that the mothers took too many supplements, besides eating too much fortified food. But some women may be genetically prone to absorb more folate than others. And it could also be a combination between the two.
Researchers do point out that expectant mothers should continue to take folic acid, but in normal dosage. It is only the excess of the vitamin that can increase the baby’s risk of developing the disease. The mechanism behind why this can happen is still a mystery.
Decades ago, scientists found that folic acid could prevent birth defects. In the 1990s, U.S. health officials started recommending women who were trying to conceive to take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. At the end of the 1990s, folic acid started to be introduced into bread and other grain products. Officials state that approximately 1,000 birth defects are prevented each year thanks to these two regulations.
Without further evidence, it is still unclear if folic acid can lead to autism. The study, although small, showed a possible link between the vitamins and autism, but it is far too inconclusive. The data must be analyzed by other researchers and then confirmed. Until then, women should be careful and take the recommended dosage prescribed by the doctor.