12 Sep Folic Acid May Reduce Risk of Autism Associated With Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Public Health Sciences
UC Davis California
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Maternal folic acid taken near conception has been linked to reduced risk for autism in the child in previous studies.
Separate studies show that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with increased risk for autism.
Animal studies demonstrate that folic acid and other B-vitamins can attenuate effects of certain environmental contaminants, including pesticides.
This case-control study examined combined maternal folic acid and pesticide exposures in relation to autism in the child.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In this study, the associated risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) was greatest for children whose mothers took less than 800 mcgs of folic acid in the first month of pregnancy and were exposed regularly to pesticides.
For most types of pesticides, this combination of low folic acid and pesticide exposure was associated with about twice the risk for ASD than either exposure alone and greater than if their independent effects were added or multiplied together.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: This study suggests that folic acid intake early in pregnancy could attenuate the risk for autism spectrum disoroder in the child associated with pesticides.
Women who are or have a chance of becoming pregnant should follow recommendations and consume at least 600 mcgs of folic acid (prenatal vitamins typically contain 800 mcgs). This study suggests this might be especially important for environmentally susceptible women. Pregnant women should also avoid regular pesticide exposure if possible.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Future studies should confirm these findings, and investigate whether folic acid and other B-vitamins can attenuate risk for ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders associated with other environmental contaminants. Additionally, mechanisms potentially involved, including DNA methylation, should be examined.
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Citation: Combined Prenatal Pesticide Exposure and Folic Acid Intake in Relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder
Rebecca J. Schmidt,1,2 Vladimir Kogan,3 Janie F. Shelton,1 Lora Delwiche,1 Robin L. Hansen,2,4 Sally Ozonoff,2,5Claudia C. Ma,6 Erin C. McCanlies,6 Deborah H. Bennett,1 Irva Hertz-Picciotto,1,2 Daniel J. Tancredi,4 and Heather E. Volk3*
Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/EHP604
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