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Multivitamins in pregnancy may reduce autism risk

Thursday 18th January 2018
Nurses and midwives can advise expectant mothers that taking multivitamins may reduce their childs risk of being diagnosed with autism, new research suggests. Image: gregory_lee via iStock
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Multivitamins taken during pregnancy could help to reduce the risk of a child being diagnosed as autistic in the future, according to a new study.

Published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the research provides some interesting insights that nurses and midwives may want to pass on to expectant mothers who want to know more about the benefits of taking multivitamins.

More than 45,300 Israeli children born between 2003 and 2007 were involved in the study in total, with an almost even split of boys and girls (23,210 vs 22,090 respectively).

In January 2015, when the average age of the children was ten years old, it was found that 1.3 per cent had been diagnosed with autism during their childhood. The researchers looked at the supplements taken by their mothers during pregnancy.

Results showed that the children of those who had taken folic acid or multivitamins before they became pregnant were almost two-thirds (61 per cent) less likely to be diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.

What's more, mothers who had continued to take these supplements while they were expecting were nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) less likely to have a child who was diagnosed as autistic before their tenth birthday.

The study’s authors therefore believe that this demonstrates a clear link between taking multivitamins in pregnancy and reduced autism risk. Previous research has linked taking these supplements with lowering the likelihood of a range of other health complications too.

Commenting on the study's findings, Dr Carrie Ruxton of the Health and Food Supplements Information Service, said: "Around 75 per cent of women of childbearing age in the UK have an inadequate folate status, putting their children at risk of neural tube disorders, such as spina bifida.

"Only a quarter of women take the recommended folic acid supplements before conception and in the first trimester of pregnancy. It is possible, given these new findings, that a lack of key nutrients may also be an issue for autism risk."

Written by James Puckle

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