Taking Folic Acid for Autism Prevention

A large study in JAMA shows an association between taking folic acid and reducing the risk of autism by about 40% (JAMA. 2013;309(6):570-577. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.155925). JAMA Network | JAMA | Association Between Mater

“The study sample of 85,176 children was derived from the population-based, prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.”  The study took place between 2002-2008.  Pregancies in which mothers received folic acid for 4 weeks before the last menstrual period and for at least 8 weeks into the pregnancy were compared with those unexposed to folic acid.


“At the end of follow-up, 270 children in the study sample had been diagnosed with ASDs: 114 with autistic disorder, 56 with Asperger syndrome, and 100 with PDD-NOS. In children whose mothers took folic acid, 0.10% (64/61,042) had autistic disorder, compared with 0.21% (50/24,134) in those unexposed to folic acid. The adjusted OR for autistic disorder in children of folic acid users was 0.61 (95% CI, 0.41-0.90). No association was found with Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS, but power was limited. Similar analyses for prenatal fish oil supplements showed no such association with autistic disorder, even though fish oil use was associated with the same maternal characteristics as folic acid use.”

While this study does not prove a causal relationship between maternal folic acid intake and autism, since folic acid is already recommended to prevent neural tube defects, this provides another potential benefit to this intervention.

From ABC news coverage:

1 thought on “Taking Folic Acid for Autism Prevention

  1. Pingback: Is Intestinal Function in Children with Autism Different? | gutsandgrowth

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