The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed 85,176 children born in Norway. Only 114, or 0.13%, of those children had autistic disorder but 0.2% of the children whose mothers did not take folic acid had autism, compared to 0.1% of the children of mothers who took the vitamin in pill form. Women who took folic acid supplements before and early in pregnancy were 39% less likely to have autistic children. Stated differently, of every 10 children who would have become autistic without the folic acid supplements, 6 would be autistic with them.
“This is important because this is something women can do to reduce the risk of autism,” says Alycia Halladay, Senior Director of Clinical and Environmental Sciences at Autism Speaks. Folic acid supplementation is already recommended to prevent neural tube defects, which are often severe malformations of the brain. Pal Suren, the lead author of the Norwegian study, says that no adjustments for parental age or other factors seemed to make a big difference in the size of the effect.
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