By RONI CARYN RABIN
Published: June 13, 2011
A new study reports that mothers of children with autism and autism spectrum disorders were significantly less likely than mothers of children without autism to have taken prenatal vitamins three months before conception and in the first month of pregnancy. The finding, published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology, suggests that taking vitamins in this period may help prevent these disorders, reducing the risk by some 40 percent.
Researchers recruited children through a California project, the Childhood Autism Risks From Genetics and Environment Study, or Charge, enrolling 288 children with autism and 144 with autism spectrum disorders, and compared them with 278 children who were developing normally. Blood was drawn for genomic analysis, and mothers were asked about their consumption of vitamins before and during pregnancy.
In mothers and children with gene variants that affect folate metabolism, not taking prenatal vitamins before conception was associated with an up to sevenfold increase in the risk of autism, the researchers found. Prenatal vitamins are rich in folate.
"Taking prenatal vitamin supplements even before conception is a concrete step concerned parents can take," said Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the study's senior author and principal investigator of the Charge study.