If there is one thing that drives researchers it is a medical condition with no definitive cause. Autism is one of those conditions. Though there are some medical ideas about the possible roots of some forms of autism, there has yet to be one study producing a clear, concise and definitive cause of autism. A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control does not change that fact, but it does link folic acid supplementation with a lowered risk of autism; until we can find that cause, reducing risk is the best option.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, pregnant women need to consume the minimum required amount of folic acid during the first month of pregnancy to reduce the risk of autism. The recommended dose is 600 mcg or 0.6 mg. Research and data collection was handled by researchers at UC Davis.

It is appalling to think that one out of every 88 children will be born with some form of autism spectrum disorder today. Tomorrow, another one out of 88 births will result in the same condition. Children are being born all over the world with autism and doctors have no idea why – but they do know that folic acid or vitamin B9 can help prevent some cases.

The study included medical information from more than 800 births. Mothers were asked questions about the diet they consumed during the first month of pregnancy. Women who claimed to consume at or more than the recommended amount of folic acid were less likely to have children with developmental delays, including autism. Women who consumed less than the recommended amount were more likely to have children with autism. At the time of the study, children ranged in age from two to five years.

Of particular concern is the presence of a gene variant that causes folate to metabolize incorrectly. If this variant is present, more folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube and developmental problems. More than 65-percent of women with an average folic acid intake of 779 mcg gave birth to children with no developmental delays. Mothers who gave birth to children with autism consumed enough folic acid only 54-percent of the time and the average intake was less – 655 mcg.

Folic acid is extremely important during reproductive years. Women need to be educated in the importance of increasing folic acid intake early to ensure they consume enough in the earliest days and weeks of the pregnancy when brain development is critical.

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and UC Davis Health System. June 13, 2012.