A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Feb. 13, 2013, indicates that preconception and prenatal folic acid supplements for women have been demonstrated to reduce and possibly prevent the risk for all forms of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).
Folic acid is found naturally in leafy vegetables, peas, lentils, beans, eggs, yeast, and liver. Some bread in the United States has folic acid added so a woman that plans to have a baby can receive the protective benefit of folic acid without taking supplements.
A total of 85,176 babies born between 2002 and 2008 and their parents participated in the study. Prenatal diets were recorded and interviews lasting from three to 10 years were used to detect the presence of any form of ASD in the children.
Mothers who took folic acid supplements in early pregnancy had a 40 percent reduced risk of having children with an ASD compared with mothers who did not take folic acid. The benefits of taking folic acid supplements were seen during the time interval from four weeks before to eight weeks after the start of pregnancy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about one in 88 children in the United States have been identified with some form of ASD during the same time frame as the study.