By taking folic acid around the time of conception, mothers-to-be may reduce their child’s risk of pesticide-related autism, a new study suggests.
“We found that if the mom was taking folic acid during the window around conception, the risk associated with pesticides seemed to be attenuated,” said study first author Rebecca Schmidt.
“Mothers should try to avoid pesticides. But if they live near agriculture, where pesticides can blow in, this might be a way to counter those effects,” said Schmidt. She is an assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of California, Davis.
It’s estimated that one in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder, which can range from mild to severe. There is no single cause, but research suggests a combination of genetic and environmental influences plays a role, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The new study included about 300 children aged 2 to 5 with autism and 220 without the developmental disorder. Children whose mothers took 800 or more micrograms of folic acid (the amount in most prenatal vitamins) had a much lower risk of developing autism, even when their mothers were exposed to household or agricultural pesticides, the researchers said.
Autism risk was higher among children whose mothers were repeatedly exposed to pesticides or whose mothers had low folic acid intake and exposure to agricultural pesticides between three months preconception and three months afterward, the findings showed.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, found in supplements and fortified foods. While taking it reduced the associated risk of pesticide-related autism in children, it did not entirely eliminate it, the report noted.
Folic acid plays a critical role in DNA repair and synthesis, and in determining which genes are turned on or off, said Schmidt. “These are all really important during periods of rapid growth when there are lots of cells dividing, as in a developing fetus. Adding folic acid might be helping out in a number of these genomic functions,” she added.
The study was published Sept. 8 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Pesticides are everywhere in our environment. Every fresh water stream, lake and river in the U.S. contains several harmful pesticides. You can’t avoid pesticides but you can reduce your exposure by eating organic foods and drinking distilled water.
Although folic acid did demonstrate some benefit in reducing the incidence of autism, there are better choices that I believe will be more effective. Rather than choosing foods that are fortified with synthetic vitamin B9 (folic acid), eat foods that are rich in the natural form of the vitamin – folate. Folate is found in foliage, especially dark green foliage like spinach and various forms of lettuce.
Don’t supplement folic acid, supplement with 5-MTHF (5-methyltertrahydrofolate), the bio-available form of vitamin B9. Both folic acid and folate must be converted to 5-MTHF in the lining of the small intestine prior to being used by the body. A third of the U.S. population has genetic defects that impair or prevent this conversion. Although genetic testing is readily available to determine if you carry one of these defects, it’s easy to just supplement the converted form.
The Bottom Line:
Eat more dark green leafy vegetables and supplement 800 mcg. of 5-MTHF daily. This will reduce the chances of having child with autism and improve your general health.
Source: September 8, 2017 National Institutes of Health