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Excess Folic Acid in Pregnancy Tied to Autism Risk

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Folic acid or vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient during pregnancy since its consumption favors the formation of embryo tissues and helps prevent critical malformations in the fetus. However, recent research has revealed the dark side of exceeding the intake of this nutrient, pointing out that women who ingest folic acid in abundance during pregnancy are twice as likely to have a baby with autism than those with adequate levels of this nutrient.

Something similar was found with vitamin B12, pointing out that mothers with an excess of this nutrient triple the possibility that their baby has an autism spectrum disorder. Discover all the details of this exciting research in this article by FastlyHeal.

The different causes of autism

In recent decades, the growing number of cases of children with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD for its acronym, has led to the study of the factors that determine this condition. Although specialists still cannot say clearly what the causes of autism are, we know that it is a multifactorial condition in which they intervene:

  • Genetic factors, such as inhibition of the neuroligin gene NL1. Other genes are believed to be involved, so research continues.
  • Neurological disorders, especially in the areas involved with learning and behavior.
  • Alterations in neurotransmitters such as serotonin and tryptophan, as well as exposure to certain substances during pregnancy, could create problems in the neural development of the fetus.

It is known that alterations in the development of the fetus during pregnancy can be an essential trigger in the appearance of this condition, and even something as innocent as excessive consumption of vitamins could increase the possibility of the formation of autism spectrum disorders.

The study published by John Hopkins University

The Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University, located in Baltimore, USA, recently published research suggesting that excessive folic acid consumption during pregnancy doubles the risk of a baby who has autism. They also found that when there is an excess of vitamin B12, the risk is tripled, while if the mother has high both nutrients, she is 17.6 times more likely that her child will have ASD.

For this research, the data of 1,391 women and children born in Boston between 1998 and 2013 were studied. Of this sample, 140 pregnant women had a high level of folic acid, four times more than the amount recommended by the WHO, and 83 had an increased presence of vitamin B12. With follow-up through 107 years, the children of these women developed autism spectrum disorders, alerting the researchers to the relationship between excess of these vitamins and their possible effects on the fetus.

The World Health Organization establishes that folic acid during the first trimester of pregnancy should be between 13.5 and 45.3 nanomoles per liter. In the case of vitamin B12, there are no limits set yet.

The research serves to alert that the excess of folic acid can be as harmful to the baby as the lack of this nutrient, being able to affect the neural development of the fetus and lead to ASD. In this way, its consumption should be monitored to maintain it at adequate levels during pregnancy.

Why are this excess of folic acid and vitamin B12 present?

One of the questions that this study opens is why these women had such high folic acid and vitamin B12 during pregnancy. Some of the theories to which they point are:

  • Consumption of folic acid supplements combined with multivitamins with vitamin B12 throughout pregnancy. Added to this is the intake of foods fortified with both nutrients, which could explain the excess in the body.
  • A more extraordinary ability of the body to absorb these nutrients explains why the levels are so high in some women and not in others despite taking supplements and following a similar diet.
  • The combination of both factors.

This study points to the need for more research on the factors that produce this excessive accumulation of vitamins.

Do I have to stop consuming folic acid in pregnancy?

NO! Folic acid is an essential supplement in pregnancy; its intake prevents between 50 and 70% of malformations in the neural tube and is very important for the correct development of the fetus. Gynecologists recommend the intake of folic acid supplements for women seeking to become pregnant and during the first trimester of pregnancy, so we should not ignore this recommendation.

However, this research alerts us to the dangers of ingesting vitamins in excess and without medical supervision, as often happens in many cases during pregnancy. That is why it is essential:

  • Follow your doctor’s recommendation regarding the amounts of folic acid you should consume per day. Please don’t overdo it or take a larger dose.
  • Folic acid is usually taken before getting pregnant when we plan pregnancy and during the first trimester of pregnancy. Do not prolong your consumption unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Do not exceed 1,000 mg of folic acid daily unless your doctor tells you to. In addition to supplements, the foods we eat also contain vitamin B9, and it is not advisable to consume too much of it.
  • Don’t take vitamin supplements unless your doctor tells you to. If they contain folic acid, consult your gynecologist about the amounts you consume of this nutrient to make sure they are not excessive.
  • Talk to your gynecologist about any questions regarding your nutrition during pregnancy or taking supplements. Nobody is better than a specialist to clarify your concerns.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Excess folic acid increases the risk that your baby has autism , we recommend that you enter our Pregnancy and baby health category .

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