The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts an ongoing surveillance that monitors all statistics related to pregnancy. Latest figures indicate that the rate of pregnancy is at its highest amongst women between the ages of 20 and 30. This statistic has been on a constant rise ever since 2009 and health analysts expect the trend to continue in its upward path in the follow years to come.
With more women expected to become new mothers in the near future, it is essential to highlight the common pitfalls that could threaten to derail a healthy pregnancy experience. For instance, raw unpasteurized foods should be avoided at all costs while consumption of seafood is not recommended as well. Raw foods may contain parasites or bacteria that could be harmful to both the mother and the unborn child. Unpasteurized dairy products may contain known bacteria such as salmonella that causes a host of illness.
Together with this list of foods to avoid, health experts also encourage an increased intake of certain vitamins and minerals to ensure that the body is necessarily equipped to sustain the pregnancy. Some of the prenatal nutrients that are widely advocated include iron, folic acid, iodine, calcium, zinc, and folate. Other vitamins that can help to guarantee a smooth pregnancy journey include Vitamin B12, C, D, and E.
Adequate Folate Intake
As these recommendations are publically endorsed by health professionals, most pregnant women religiously increase their intake without a second thought. However, a recent study published by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health seem to indicate that consuming too much folate during pregnancy may consequently lead to unfavorable health effects on the fetus. The team of researchers acknowledges that adequate folate intake is required to ensure the normal neurodevelopment of the child but are wary that overloading on this nutrient increases the risk of the child developing autism spectrum disorder.
Presenting their findings at the 2016 International Meeting for Autism Research in Baltimore, the experts further elaborate that for new mothers who record more than four times the adequate level of folate in their body, the risk that their child will suffer from autism doubles. On the other hand, excessive vitamin B12 levels in new mothers were also discovered to possess the same risk to newborns, potentially multiplying their risk of developing autism spectrum disorder by more than three-fold. In severe cases where the new mothers exhibit abnormally high levels of folate and vitamin B12, the chances that her newborn might develop autism increases exponentially by 17.6 times.
According to M. Daniele Fallin, PhD, director of the Bloomberg School’s Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, the history of global healthcare has always highlighted the importance of folate supplementation during pregnancy to protect the fetus. However, this new study has provided vital insights into the adverse health effects of excessive consumption that has never been explored. The study analyzed health data from 1,391 mother and child pairs between 1998 and 2013. It was discovered that 10% of the new mothers had recorded excessive amounts of folate in their body, mainly exceeding 59 nanomoles per liter. The World Health Organization provides that sufficient amount of folate ranges between 13.5 and 45.3 nanomoles per liter.
The researchers also indicated that a majority of the participants in the study reported consuming multivitamins throughout their pregnancy term, which would definitely include folate and vitamin B12. However, they were unable to determine the exact reason why only a minority of new mothers had recorded excessive amounts of folate in their post-pregnancy system. Although further investigation is required, it was deduced that some of the participants could have loaded up on more supplements than others or even consumed more folate-fortified foods throughout their pregnancy. Some experts also believe that certain women are genetically predisposed to absorb higher quantities of folate or are unable to metabolize the nutrient at a higher rate, thus leading to excessive content in their bodies.
In concluding the report, the authors were quick to note of the limitations of their findings but highlighted the main objective of their experiment. The extensive research offered new insights into the necessity of folate intake during pregnancy but also warned of the potential dangers that may result when consumed in excessive amounts. While health experts generally do not monitor the folate content of their pregnant patients, the World Health Organization does recommend that pregnant women should maintain within the healthy range of 13.5 and 45.3 nanomoles.
The main key point to take away from this article is the fact that recording excessive amounts of folate above 59 nanomoles per liter would exponentially increase the child’s risk of developing autism spectrum disorder by up to four times. When combined with an overdose of Vitamin B12, this spikes significantly by 17.6 times. Ultimately, there is no doubt that pregnant women should load up on their vitamin intake but perhaps the most important factor is to consume in moderation.
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