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Low folate levels in pregnant women may be linked to hyperactive children

April 30, 2010

Attention-deficit and hyperactivity problems in children may be associated with low vitamin B9 (folate) levels during pregnancy, suggests a new UK study.

In the study, blood samples of 100 mothers in early pregnancy were taken to measure vitamin B9 (folate) levels (1). After a follow-up of an average of 8.75 years, the mothers reported on their children's behavior using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. The results showed that low maternal levels of folate were associated with both higher childhood hyperactivity and peer problems scores.

These findings further support the hypothesis that maternal nutrition contributes to an individual’s development, with potential consequences for their behavior later in life, the researchers commented. The long-term effects of poor maternal nutrition may even branch out to the child’s ability to interact with peers or form social bonds.

The scientists speculate that the low folate levels may impair the development of the brain in the fetus. Early pregnancy is a critical time for brain development.

A Dutch study reported earlier that the children of mothers who took folic acid supplements during pregnancy were better at internalizing and externalizing problems, compared to the children of mothers who did not take supplements.

An overwhelming body of evidence links folate deficiency in early pregnancy to increased risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) in infants.

References

  1. Schlotz W. et al. Lower maternal folate status in early pregnancy is associated with childhood hyperactivity and peer problems in offspring. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2010; 51(5): 594–602.