Folic Acid Supplements Reduce Autism Risk



A new study finds that taking folic acid supplements during early pregnancy can reduce the risk of autism by 39 percent.


 

 

FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENTS REDUCE AUTISM RISK

For reasons that remain unclear at this time, the number of children diagnosed with autism has skyrocketed in recent years.  While many cases of autism appear to be linked to specific genetic abnormalities that can be inherited, or to other factors that are strongly associated with autism, in the majority of cases, no specific causes are apparent. 

One important focus of autism research is in the area of the “prenatal environment,” which is to say, the environment that the developing fetus experiences prior to delivery.  For example, maternal infections with certain viruses during pregnancy have been linked with autism.  In other cases, maternal exposure to specific environmental toxins during pregnancy has also been associated with an increased risk of autism.  Due to growing evidence that the fetal environment during pregnancy may play an important role in the risk of developing autism, there has also been an interest in looking at nutritional factors that may play a role in either the prevention or development of autism during pregnancy. 

Folic acid (Vitamin B9) has previously been shown to play an important role in the development of the brain and spinal cord during early fetal development.  For example, devastating abnormalities in brain and spinal cord development, collectively referred to as neural tube defects, have been specifically linked to inadequate folic acid intake during early pregnancy.  Because folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy reduces the incidence of neural tube defects by almost 50 percent, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated folic acid supplementation of all food products derived from grains and cereals in the United States.  Now, a newly published clinical research study suggests that folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy may also significantly reduce the risk of autism.  This study appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In this landmark study, more than 85,000 children born in Norway between 2002 and 2008 took part in the prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.  These children were closely followed in this study, until March 31, 2012.  The use (or nonuse) of folic acid supplements by the mothers of these children, before and during pregnancy, was then assessed.  The incidence of autism in this very large group of children was then correlated with their mothers’ use (or nonuse) of folic acid during early pregnancy.    

The findings of this study were rather dramatic.  At the end of this study’s observation period, 270 children had been formally diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder, including 114 children with autistic disorder (autism), 56 with Asperger’s syndrome, and 100 with Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  Although the risk of Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder did not appear to vary with respect to folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy, the use of folic acid supplements prior to and during pregnancy was associated with a 39 percent decrease in the risk of autistic disorder (autism), when compared to the children of mothers who did not take folic acids supplements.  (The authors of this study also noted that the statistical power of this study was not strong enough to detect a subtle impact of folic acid supplementation on the risk of Asperger’s syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and so a potential mildly beneficial effect of folic acid on the incidence of these two autistic spectrum disorders cannot be ruled out at this time.)

Therefore, the findings of this large prospective clinical research study indicate that the incidence of autism can be significantly reduced by folic acid supplementation just prior to pregnancy, and during pregnancy, just as the incidence of neural tube defects has been reduced using this same strategy.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

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Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.5 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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Mercury Exposure In The Womb May Cause ADHD





 

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children may result from maternal exposure to mercury during pregnancy.


 

 

 

MERCURY EXPOSURE IN THE WOMB MAY CAUSE ADHD

Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  While the reasons behind this rising number of ADHD diagnoses continue to be debated, there is emerging clinical research data suggesting that maternal exposure to specific environmental toxins during pregnancy may significantly increase the incidence of ADHD among the children of these exposed mothers.

Previous studies have linked prenatal (“before birth”) exposure to lead, tobacco and mercury with a higher incidence of ADHD, but these studies have suffered from a significant limitation, in that they have relied upon surrogate measures of exposure to these toxins rather than direct, quantitative measures of exposure.  Now, a newly published clinical study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has overcome the limitations of previous studies, and strongly suggests that prenatal exposure to mercury increases the risk of ADHD.

There are multiple sources of potential mercury exposure in the environment around us.  Indeed, more than half of all of the mercury introduced into the environment comes from manmade sources, including coal-fired power plants, steel plants, cement plants, mining operations, waste processing plants, battery manufacturing plants, and fluorescent bulb manufacturing plants, among other industrial sources.  (Almost half of the mercury in the environment actually comes from naturally-occurring processes including, of all things, volcanic eruptions.)  Once released into the environment, mercury then becomes concentrated, or “bio-amplified,” within the plants and animals that we eat, as well as in the water that we drink and the air that we breathe.  Once ingested, mercury is a known toxin, with adverse effects on the nervous system (including the brain), lungs, kidneys, and other vital organs.  As is the case with many environmental toxins, mercury is especially toxic to the unborn fetus, infants, and small children.

In this innovative new study, two groups of children were evaluated.  In the first group (421 children), hair samples collected from the mothers of these children at around the time of their birth were analyzed for mercury content.  In the second group (515 children), maternal hair samples were not available for testing, but maternal fish consumption (the most common source of mercury exposure) during pregnancy was evaluated, and this information was used to assess the impact of maternal fish intake on ADHD incidence in this second group of children.

The findings of this study were quite surprising.

The most important finding of this study was that increasing levels of mercury in the hair of mothers were significantly associated with a greater number of ADHD-related behaviors among their children.  In particular, impulsive and hyperactive behaviors were 70 percent more common among the children of mothers with hair mercury levels at or above 1 microgram per gram of hair, and attention-deficit (“inattentiveness”) behaviors were 40 percent more common among these same children. Another interesting observation was that the association between maternal hair mercury levels and ADHD symptoms was identified primarily in boys, and was not commonly seen in girls.

Given that the single greatest source of mercury ingestion for most of us is fish consumption, one would expect that higher levels of maternal fish consumption would be associated with an increased risk of ADHD if, indeed, prenatal mercury exposure can lead to ADHD.  However, this study actually found the opposite association between maternal fish intake during pregnancy and the risk of ADHD.  In this study, maternal fish consumption of more than 2 servings for week during pregnancy was actually associated with a lower incidence of ADHD among the children of these mothers, including a 60 percent lower incidence of impulsive and hyperactive behaviors.

Mercury is a known nerve poison (neurotoxin), and there is data suggesting that the prefrontal cortex of the developing fetal brain is especially sensitive to the effects of even low levels of mercury and other environmental neurotoxins.  As the prefrontal cortex (the “executive center” of the brain) is the area of the brain that exerts the greatest control on voluntary behavior, it is entirely reasonable to think that damage to this part of the brain could result in the inattentive and hyperactive behaviors that are the hallmarks of ADHD.

Based upon this study’s findings, it appears that maternal exposure to even relatively low levels of mercury (based upon maternal hair mercury content) during pregnancy may significantly increase the risk of ADHD-related behaviors in affected children.  At the same time, the finding of the more subjective half of this study, which assessed maternal fish intake during pregnancy as a risk factor for ADHD-related behaviors, is rather counterintuitive, as fish consumption is thought to be the greatest source of mercury exposure for most humans.  If, as this study suggests, increased maternal fish consumption during pregnancy is actually protective against ADHD-related behaviors, then environmental sources of mercury exposure other than fish must be involved in mercury-associated ADHD symptoms.

In my view, the findings of this study are very important, and, as an accompanying editorial notes, short of intentionally exposing children to mercury contamination for the sake of research, the hair analysis utilized in this study is as close as we are going to get to a “perfect” study of prenatal mercury exposure as a risk factor for ADHD.

Fortunately, there is an increasing awareness by public health experts regarding the potentially adverse health effects of environmental mercury.  However, the findings of this study suggest that more must still be done to reduce mercury levels in the food that we eat, the water that we drink, and the air that we breathe.

 

Give the gift of health during this Holiday Season.  My bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, is available in both print and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Help a loved one to begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

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Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1



At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, 2,017,594 pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 



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