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Folic acid may reduce speech problems
[Posted: Thu 13/10/2011 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
It is already known that folic acid taken during early pregnancy significantly reduces the risk of babies being born with neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida. Now a new study has found that the vitamin may also reduce the risk of a child having severe speech problems later on.
Folic acid is a B-group vitamin that occurs naturally in foods such as leafy green vegetables, potatoes and bread. It can also be taken as a supplement and all women of childbearing age are recommended to take a folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms per day because of its role in reducing the risk of NTDs in babies.
"Trials and studies have demonstrated that periconceptional (the period from before conception to early pregnancy) folic acid supplements reduce the risk of neural tube defects. To our knowledge, none of the trials have followed up their sample to investigate whether these supplements have effects on neurodevelopment that are only manifest after birth," Norwegian researchers said.
They looked at almost 40,000 children, a small number of whom were considered to have severe language delay. This was defined as having minimal expressive language, for example, having only one word or making unintelligible sounds.
They found that when a child reached the age of three, they were significantly less likely to have severe language delay if their mother had taken folic acid four weeks before conception and for the first eight weeks of the pregnancy.
The researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health did note that no link was found between mothers taking folic acid and the development of gross motor skills, such as sitting up, walking and throwing a ball, in their children.
However, they added that if further studies back up their findings related to speech, this could have important implications for ‘policies of folic acid supplementation for women of reproductive age'.
Details of these findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For more information on pregnancy, see Irishhealth.com's Pregnancy Clinic here
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