Hungry during pregnancy? Try a bowl of cereal.
A new research study published in the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition shows that women who consumed at least 600 micrograms of folic acid
daily had a 38 percent lower risk of having a child on the autism spectrum.
Folic acid, which is a synthetic form of the B vitamin
folate, is an addition to many breakfast cereals and other foods containing
grains. First added in 1998 in the
United States, folic acid deficiencies in pregnant women was linked to brain
and spine birth defects.
Folate is an important vitamin for early brain development,
as it helps the brain establish those connections and basic functions. Folate deficiency might be linked to
mental retardation and developmental disabilities because of its assistance
with brain development in early life.
Some researchers hypothesize that too much folic acid during
pregnancy actually increases the risk of autism. The researchers of this study investigated the folic acid
intake of mothers of 429 preschoolers with autism and 278 neurotypical
preschoolers. The findings show
that mothers of children without autism had an increased intake of folic acid
through fortified foods.
Of the mothers of children without autism, 69 percent of
them received the recommended daily amount of 600 micrograms, and these mothers
got an average of 779 micrograms of folic acid each day. These numbers compared to mothers of
children with autism, who averaged 655 micrograms per day; only 54 percent
received the recommended amount each day.
While many of these mothers did still intake the recommended dose, those
who had more than the recommended daily amount did not have children with
There is no proof, however, that if mothers of children with
autism would have prevented autism by having more folic acid. The scientific community is a bit
skeptical of the results, and they suggest this research to be replicated to
help support its findings.
For now, researchers do suggest getting the recommended
daily intake of folic acid. A bowl
of cereal has about 400 micrograms of folic acid. Lentils and spinach are also natural sources of folate and
have about 100 to 200 micrograms per half cup serving.