Evidence is mounting that children born to mothers who take folic acid and multivitamins during pregnancy may have a lower risk of developing autism compared with children whose mothers do not take supplements. In the latest research, a case-control cohort study of 45,300 Israeli children published online in JAMA Psychiatry on January 3, researchers compared 572 children who had received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with those who did not receive an ASD diagnosis. The researchers assessed maternal exposure to folic acid and/or multivitamin supplements before and during pregnancy, and evaluated whether the mothers had been prescribed folic acid or multivitamin supplements before or during their pregnancies.
At study’s end, in January 2015, the researchers found that children born to mothers who took the supplements before pregnancy were 61% less likely to be diagnosed with ASD, and those born to mothers who took the supplements during pregnancy were 73% less likely to be diagnosed with ASD, compared with children born to mothers who did not take supplements before or during pregnancy.
The researchers note several limitations to their study, including confounding, a small sample size of children with ASD, and the inability to compare siblings with one another. However, the results appear to confirm those of a Swedish study of more than 273,000 mother-child pairs published online in BMJ last October, which suggests that children born to mothers who take multivitamins early in pregnancy have a lower risk of ASD compared with mothers who do not take multivitamins.