According to a new study, women who take multivitamins early in pregnancy may be less likely to have children with autism.
Autism is a brain disorder that is associated with developmental problems in communication and social interaction. The first signs of autism usually appear 12 to 18 months of age, however, most children are not diagnosed with the disease until preschool age. So far, no known cause of autism.
In a recent study, researchers analyzed data from the study of Genetic and Environmental Risk in infantile autism. Children were assessed between 24 and 60 months of age. Investigations confirmed in 288 children with autism, 141 with autistic spectrum disorder and 278 normal. Data were also collected from the mothers regarding the consumption of prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis found that children born to mothers who took vitamins before and during pregnancy had a 60 percent greater risk of developing autism. This risk was 4.5 times higher in women who were identified as carrying a high risk gene, specifically MTHFR and COMT genes.
The causes of gene-environment interaction observed are not yet clear to researchers, however, it is known that both the genetic mother and the intake of vitamins affect fetal development. The two genes isolated in this study, MTHFR and COMT affect folate metabolism. And we know that folate intake during pregnancy to prevent birth defects, especially neural tube that becomes the brain and spinal cord of the fetus mature. Researchers have also found that prenatal vitamins prevent a wide range of birth defects, although there is a lack of research linking vitamins with autism.
The researchers hypothesize that there may be a relationship between vitamins and folic acid, but the specific mechanisms responsible for reduced risk of autism remain unknown. Moreover, given the complexity of factors that affect fetal development, additional replication is required to verify the results of this research.