Prenatal Vitamins and Autism

WOMEN WHO START PRENATAL VITAMINS EARLY ARE LESS LIKEY TO HAVE CHILDREN WITH AUTISM.  A recent study by the UC Davis MIND Institute reported that women who did not take prenatal vitamins in the three months before their pregnancy and the first month of their pregnancy were twice as likely to have a child with autism than women who did take prenatal vitamins during these periods.  After the first month of pregnancy, no differences were seen in rates of autism between the groups of mothers who did and did not take prenatal vitamins.  The authors of the study hypothesize that folate and other B vitamins protect against abnormalities in early fetal brain development.  The study also identified maternal genes that, when combined with lack of prenatal vitamin intake during the identified periods, significantly increased the likelihood of having a child with autism (with the risk of autism for some being up to seven times greater).  This study could be the first example of a gene-environment link in autism.  Although the study has limitations, and requires replication, it could provide an easy and inexpensive way to reduce the possibility of having a child with autism for mothers who are at risk (i.e., mothers who have a child with autism already or have the identified genes).  The study, Prenatal Vitamins, Functional One-Carbon Metabolism Gene Variants, and Risk for Autism in the CHARGE Study, was published online in late May in the journal Epidemiology and is scheduled to appear in print in July.

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