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Increased folic acid intakes during pregnancy may benefit children’s heart health

March 9, 2015

According to a new review from China maternal folic acid supplementation seems to reduce the risk of congenital heart defects in the offspring.

The meta-analysis included 18 studies investigating a potential link between increased folic acid intake during pregnancy and the risk of their babies developing congenital heart defects (CHDs) (1). The data analysis showed that maternal folate supplementation was associated with a significantly decreased risk of CHDs.

The researchers commented that low blood folate concentrations and/or high homocysteine levels seem to interfere with the development of the heart. Folic acid may play a role in the migration of the cardiac neural crest cells that contribute to the formation of the heart. As the precise effects of folate supplementation on cardiac morphogenesis are unclear, they said it is important to corroborate this hypothesis with evidence from clinical and population-based studies. Although the potential role of folic acid in the prevention of neural tube defects was reported as early as 1980, public health campaigns have resulted in preconception supplementation in only one-third of pregnant women, partly because one-half of all pregnancies are unplanned (2).

References

  1. Feng Y. et al. Maternal Folic Acid Supplementation and the Risk of Congenital Heart Defects in Offspring: A Meta-Analysis of Epidemiological Observational Studies. Scientific Reports. 2015; 5:8506.
  2. Holmes L. et al. Teratology Society Consensus Statement on use of folic acid to reduce the risk of birth defects. Teratology. 1997; 55:381.