New Study Reinforces Importance of Folic Acid Before and During Pregnancy

In response to a new study, “Association of Folic Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy With the Risk of Autistic Traits in Children Exposed to Antiepileptic Drugs In Utero,” published on December 26 in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Neurology, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, issued a statement.  

In response to a new study, “Association of Folic Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy With the Risk of Autistic Traits in Children Exposed to Antiepileptic Drugs In Utero1,” published on December 26 in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Neurology, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, issued a statement.

Statement by Andrea Wong, Ph.D., vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, CRN: 

“Supplementing with folic acid by women who are pregnant, or capable of becoming pregnant, has proven essential to reduce neural tube birth defects in babies, and this new study demonstrates the potential for additional benefits of continuous folic supplementation. Although this study points to the reduction of autistic traits associated with folic acid supplementation in a specific population—women taking antiepileptic drugs—it underscores the importance for all women capable of becoming pregnant to supplement with folic acid, too. The recommendation for all women of childbearing age to supplement with folic acid is supported by the U.S. Government, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and should be heeded to promote the health and wellbeing of future children.

In addition to reinforcing the benefits of folic acid supplementation, this study raises the importance of an open dialogue between patients and their doctors. Some pharmaceutical drugs can have interactions with certain dietary supplements; other medications can create nutrient depletions or side effects (as in this study) that can be mitigated or offset with careful use of dietary supplements. Both occurrences illustrate the need for patients to discuss candidly both their medication and supplement regimens with their doctors or other healthcare practitioners.

Folic acid is only one of many essential nutrients that are necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Well-established science has demonstrated that adequate intakes of iodine, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and other nutrients are also critical during pregnancy and help lead to healthier babies. We recommend that women of childbearing age discuss their nutrient intake with their OB/GYNs or other healthcare practitioners as inadequate intake can lead to negative consequences for both the mother and baby.”

1. JAMA Neurol. Published online December 26, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3897

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