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Folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy may improve children’s language skills

October 17, 2011

According to a new Norwegian study, the use of folic acid supplements by pregnant women may be associated with a reduced risk of the child having severe language delay.

In the prospective observational study, researchers examined the potential relationship between the intake of folic acid supplements – during the period of time from four weeks before conception until eight weeks after it – and a reduced risk of severe language delay among offspring at three years of age (1). The main analysis included 38,954 children, of which 204 (0.5 percent) were rated as having severe language delay. The study results showed that children whose mothers took dietary supplements containing folic acid had significantly less expressive language problems at the age of three than the offspring of mothers who did not take the supplements. No association was found between maternal use of folic acid supplements and significant delay in gross motor skills at age three years.

The researchers commented that if the relationship between the maternal use of folic acid supplements and a substantially reduced risk of severe language delay in children were proven to be causal, it would have important implications for the prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as for policies of folic acid supplementation for women of reproductive age. Unlike the United States, for example, Norway does not fortify foods with folic acid.

References

  1. Roth C. et al. Maternal Use of Folic Acid Supplements in Early Pregnancy Associated With Reduced Risk of Severe Language Delay in Children. JAMA. October 2011.