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Breaking News on the Prevention of Autism (Really)

Posted by on Nov. 15, 2013 at 7:59 PM
  • 49 Replies


Breaking News on the Prevention of Autism (Really)

Breaking News on the Prevention of Autism (Really):
Folic Acid in the First Days of Pregnancy

I have been honored to be working with Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto of the University of California at Davis, who is widely regarded as the world's leading expert on the epidemiology of autism.   She has very recently informed me of some very exciting news, news that for the first time opens the door to possibly preventing autism.

Many of you may recall that I met Dr. Hertz-Picciotto roughly 2 years ago in preparation for leading a roundtable on finding the reversible causes of autism convened and hosted by Senator Sherrod Brown in the US Senate Meeting Rooms.

The exciting news is the result of years of work on the part of Dr. Hertz-Picciotto and her team in the MARBLES study (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies).   Her colleague Dr. Rebecca Schmidt has just reported that mothers who take sufficient folic acid in the days prior to and just after conception have sharp reduction in their risk of their babies developing autism.   This is how dramatic the news is:  if your folic acid levels are high enough, your baby's risk of developing autism drops FIVE-FOLD.  This is very dramatic news.

The impact is supported by other studies, so it is a replicated result, making it unlikely to be disproven with further studies.

How much is enough?   When do you have to take it to get the protection?  These are key questions.

How much is enough? 
The actual answer is only determined by testing a blood level of folic acid, but Dr. Schmidt states that for nearly everyone, taking 800 micrograms a day will get you to the levels needed to see a five-fold reduction in the chance your child will develop autism.

When do you have to take it to get the protection?
The protection works best the earlier in pregnancy that it is taken.   After one month of pregnancy, the protective effect already weakens.  This means for best protection, your folic acid levels should be at the protective level before conception.  We recommend that all girls and women take 800 mcg of folic acid a day from their first period to their last.  That way, whenever pregnancy occurs, the protective effect of folic acid will be in place for the first days of embryonic development, the key time the protection is necessary.   If this routine cannot be sustained, then it is critical that the folic acid be taken the whole period of your life when you think you may be having a baby.

How certain is this finding to work?
At this point it is highly likely to work.  The last step in proof is for the population to take 800 mcg before every pregnancy and then see if autism does drop five-fold as anticipated.

Bottom Line:
Good evidence is now in hand to strongly suggest that if you take 800 mcg of folic acid every day the month before and then throughout pregnancy, your child will drop their risk of developing autism quite substantially, perhaps as much as five-fold.
by on Nov. 15, 2013 at 7:59 PM
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by on Nov. 15, 2013 at 8:35 PM

Seriously? That is amazing info. I wish all of this info was available to me before and during my pregnancy. I was just recently speaking to a woman who just had a baby and she informed me there is now a blood test they give pregnant women that can determine if their baby has or is at high risk for autism. I looked it up to see if it was true and sure enough it is. Honestly even if that test was available when I was pregnant I do not think it would have changed my mind about having my son. I feel blessed to have been given such a gift..

by Tiffy on Nov. 15, 2013 at 10:37 PM
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While this is fascinating news and I hope that this does indeed prevent Autism, I can't help but wonder how do we prevent something we don't even really know what the cause is?  Are the implying that folic acid levels are a cause of Autism?  Maybe I'm thinking about this wrong?  I don't know. 

by on Nov. 15, 2013 at 10:40 PM
I would love to see the mothers with autism responses to "preventing" autism.
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by Member on Nov. 15, 2013 at 10:47 PM
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i call folic acid is always high and i have 2 children with autism
by Darby on Nov. 16, 2013 at 6:49 AM
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I have to agree with you.

Quoting SnowWhieQueen:

i call folic acid is always high and i have 2 children with autism

by on Nov. 16, 2013 at 9:53 AM
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Wasn't there another "credible" study just a few weeks ago that talked about how folic acid makes almost no difference in brain function?  Seriously, there is so much misinformation out there, it is impossible to know who to believe.  However, I think that there is something to be said for getting enough folic acid.  We saw a difference in our son's learning and behavior when we really increased the amount of folic acid and DHA that he got, in conjunction with other nutrients.  One of the bigger factors may be choline, but that isn't as well studied yet.  

I think it is risky any time someone says that you can prevent autism by doing x.  If it is true, then great, I'm all in favor of it.  But they really don't know, and since they don't, it just adds more to the list of things Autism mommies worry about:

Great, in addition to letting my kid watch too much TV, vax'ing him against potentially life threatening diseases, breastfeeding too long/not breastfeeding long enough, giving him blueberries, etc, I now didn't get enough folic acid during pregnancy.

 It's kind of unfair.  They don't know what caused it, I can't imagine they know for sure how to prevent it.

by Gold Member on Nov. 16, 2013 at 10:01 AM

I think science is always good news, even if its not the whole picture...

by Bronze Member on Nov. 16, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Would be nice for once to have some control but I'm not sure this is it....I hope there is something to it.  Will keep an open mind though.

by on Nov. 17, 2013 at 7:05 AM

 What they tell us after the fact. Don't you wish we could go back in time and read all of this then?

by Platinum Member on Nov. 17, 2013 at 7:57 AM

This to me does not make much sense. Most women take prenatal vitamins while pregnant and it contains folic acid. It just doesn't seem possible. Of course if it were true why don't doctors push more folic acid

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