17th August 2010: Folic acid supplementation may reduce mental health problems in children.

It is known that supplementation with folate during pregnancy can reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects, but information on the role of folate on subsequent neurodevelopment is scarce. In a paper published this year in the British Journal of Nutrition, Sabine Roza and her colleagues from Nutrimenthe partners Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, have demonstrated that inadequate folate use during pregnancy may be associated with a higher risk of behavioural problems in children at 18 months.

Pregnant women, prenatally enrolled on the Generation R study, were asked about their use of folate supplementation in pregnancy, whether it was taken before conception or sometime later during pregnancy, or not at all.   Child behaviour was assessed by the Child Behaviour Checklist for toddlers (CBCL), which is used to obtain standardised reports, by parents, of their child’s behaviour. The checklist includes an assessment of whether a child is emotionally reactive, anxious, depressed, has sleep problems, attention problems or exhibits aggressive behaviour. In the current study, information on child behavioural problems was available in 4214 toddlers and it was shown that, even when results were adjusted for confounding variables, inadequate folate use resulted in a higher risk of total behavioural problems.

The researchers concluded that failure to use folic acid supplements during early pregnancy may be associated with behavioural and emotional problems at 18 months. Analysis is ongoing to establish the relationship between maternal dietary intake of folate during pregnancy and behavioural problems at age three in the children.


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