Just in time for National Autism Month, new research finds that folic acid may lower the risk of autism and ease features from the condition. That’s according to findings from five unrelated studies published over the past few months.
Three of the studies suggest that taking folic acid can offset the autism risk associated with in utero exposure to epilepsy drugs or toxic chemicals. The fourth study found that people with autism, and their immediate family members, are more likely to carry immune molecules that could block folate’s passage into the brain. The fifth study suggests that folinic acid – a form of folic acid – can reduce language and communication difficulties in people with autism.
During the epilepsy drugs study, researchers looked at folic acid’s effects on the known autism risk in children exposed to said drugs while in utero.
Researchers reviewed medical data for 104,946 births in Norway between 1999 and 2008 and focused on 288 women who took epilepsy drugs during their pregnancies.
Of those women, 260 reported that they took folic acid from 4 weeks before to 12 weeks after conception.
Researchers found that the children whose mothers did not take folic acid were nearly six times as likely to show autism traits at 18 months, and nearly eight times as likely at 36 months, as those whose mothers took the supplements.
In the study connected to toxic chemicals, one looked at whether or not folic acid had an impact on autism risk from pesticides. They found that women who took the estimated amount of folic acid, and were exposed to pesticides, were about 1.3 to 1.9 times as likely to have a child born with autism. Women with below-recommended folic acid intake were found to be twice as likely to have children born with autism.
The other study looked at prenatal exposure to five types of air pollutants in California. Researchers reported that Above-average folic acid intake does not have a statistically significant effect on autism risk from most types of air pollutants. However, folic acid intake is linked to a slightly lower autism risk from exposure to the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide.
While none of the studies are absolutely conclusive, they do continue to show the potential benefits of folic acid, to go along with those already known.